Understanding Church Teaching on Invalid Acts

Understanding Church Teaching on Invalid Acts

Issuing from Traditional “Clergy”

(All emphasis within quotes is the editor’s.)


Despite explanations and avowals to the contrary, many continue to accuse those who point out the invalidity of acts proceeding from Traditionalist “orders” of deliberate falsification of Church doctrine, denial of indefectibility and other evils. None, however, have offered proofs showing that these men ever actually became priests or bishops, something they are obligated to do; proofs from the Roman Pontiffs and Ecumenical Councils as strong as or indeed stronger than those of their opponents. Instead they hide, ipse dixit style, behind the protestations of their leaders and repeat without proving what they are saying the useless and specious arguments, defying scholastic method, these leaders have already put forth.

No case, civil or ecclesiastical, can be tried and won without the necessary evidence. This is simply a matter of fact. Feelings cannot enter here, yet feelings and a false idea of their “rights” is what fuels Traditionalism, although strangely this is the very thing they object to the most about their Novus Ordo adversaries. Canon Law says the laity has the right to receive “spiritual goods from the clergy, especially the necessary means of salvation,” but only “according to the rules of ecclesiastical discipline.” Is it any wonder then that Traditionalists have no desire to truly understand the very laws that govern these rights, seeing that such laws would deprive them of the things their feelings dictate they are entitled to and must possess at any cost? Only lawful pastors are required to “administer the Sacraments to the faithful whenever they legitimately request them,” (Can. 467). If such a pastor knows he cannot function, then he also would know when the faithful cannot legitimately request the Sacraments and would refuse them. Under Can. 87, Catholics are only subjects of the Church “unless there is some obstacle impeding the bond of communion with the Church, or a censure inflicted by the Church.”

How many Traditionalists today were baptized in the Novus Ordo or Traditionalist sects and failed to break away from these sects before the age of 14? The Church teaches that they have incurred censures for communicatio in sacris and must be absolved and abjured before ever receiving the Sacraments. But who can absolve and abjure them that is not guilty of this same censure himself? So therefore not only do the faithful have no right whatsoever to receive the Sacraments, but until they are absolved and abjured, or at least cease and desist from their non-Catholic sect for three years and do penance, they are not even considered Catholics. And unfortunately, as explained at length elsewhere on this site, Traditionalism itself is just one more non-Catholic sect that will only perpetuate the deadly cycle of schism and heresy. It is necessary to understand that in condemning these so-called clerics as acting invalidly, no one is impugning the Sacrament of Holy Orders, administered according to the laws and teachings of the Church. What is being stated here is that even in the case of one ABLE to convey these Sacraments, (which is not the case today), this power is suspended and nullified during an interregnum by infallible decree. We begin with that decree below.

Vacantis Apostolica Sedis

(Pope Pius XII election constitution, 1945)



Concerning the Power of the Sacred College of Cardinals

while the Apostolic See is Vacant

1. “During the vacancy of the Apostolic See, regarding those things that pertained to the Sovereign Roman Pontiff while he lived, the Sacred College of Cardinals shall have absolutely no power or jurisdiction of rendering neither a favor nor justice or of carrying out a favor or justice rendered by the deceased Pontiff; rather, let the College be obliged to reserve all these things to the future Pontiff. Therefore, We declare invalid and void any power or jurisdiction pertaining to the Roman Pontiff in his lifetime, which the assembly of Cardinals might decide to exercise (while the Church is without a Pope), except to the extent to which it be expressly permitted in this Our Constitution.

2.  Likewise we command that the Sacred College of Cardinals shall not have the power to make a determination in any way it pleases concerning the rights of the Apostolic See and of the Roman Church, nor attempt in any way to subtract directly or indirectly from the rights of the same on the pretext of a relaxation of attention or by the concealment of actions perpetrated against these same rights even after the death of the Pontiff or in the period of the vacancy. On the contrary, We desire that the College ought to watch over and defend these rights during the contention of all influential forces.

3.  The laws issued by Roman Pontiffs in no way can be corrected or changed by the assembly of Cardinals of the Roman Church while it is without a Pope, nor can anything be subtracted from them or added or dispensed in any way whatsoever with respect to said laws or any part of them. This prohibition is especially applicable in the case of Pontifical Constitutions issued to regulate the business of the election of the Roman Pontiff. In truth, if ANYTHING adverse to this command should by chance happen to come about or be attempted, We declare it, by Our Supreme Authority, to be null and void.

Cum ex Apostolatus Officio

Pope Paul IV, 1559

2. Now therefore, having thoroughly discussed these matters with Our venerable brothers the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, upon their advice and with their unanimous consent, We approve and renew, by Our Apostolic authority, each and every sentence, censure or penalty of excommunication, suspension and interdict, and removal, and any others whatever in any way given and promulgated against heretics and schismatics by any Roman Pontiffs Our Predecessors, or considered as such, even in their uncollected letters, or by the sacred Councils recognized by God’s Church or in the decrees or statutes of the Holy Fathers or in the sacred Canons and Apostolic Constitutions and ordinances. We will and decree that they be forever observed and, if perchance now obsolete, that they shall be restored and shall remain in vigorous observance… the above mentioned sentences, censures and penalties shall be incurred by all be they of any state, degree, class, condition or pre-eminence whatever, even if illustrious as bishops, Archbishops, Patriarchs, Primates or other major Church dignitaries…

5. …Whoever knowingly presumes in any way to receive anew the persons so apprehended, confessed or convicted, or to favor them, believe them, or teach their doctrines shall ipso facto incur excommunication, and, become infamous [Can. 2314 §3; also Can. 2316, Fontes].

6. Further, if ever at any time it becomes clear that any Bishop, even one conducting himself as an Archbishop, Patriarch, or primate; or any Cardinal of the aforesaid Roman Church, even as mentioned, a Legate; or likewise any Roman Pontiff before his promotion or elevation as a Cardinal or Roman Pontiff, has strayed from the Catholic Faith or fallen into some heresy, or has incurred schism, then his promotion or elevation shall be null, invalid and void. It cannot be declared valid or become valid through his acceptance of the office, his consecration, subsequent possession or seeming possession of government and administration, or by the enthronement of or homage paid to the same Roman Pontiff, or by universal obedience accorded him, or by the passage of any time in said circumstances, nor shall it be held as quasi-legitimate. It shall not be considered to have given or to give any power of administration in matters spiritual or temporal, to such persons promoted as Archbishops, Patriarchs or primates or elevated as Cardinals or as Roman Pontiff. Rather, each and, every one of their statements, deeds, enactments, and administrative acts, of any kind, and any result thereof whatsoever, shall be without force and shall confer no legality or right on anyone. The persons themselves so promoted and elevated shall, ipso facto and without need for any further declaration, be deprived of any dignity, position, honor, title, authority, office and power…”

In the Latin version of the Code, Cum ex… is given as one of the Fontes for Can. 2314 §3 (dealing with communicatio in sacris and infamy of law) and this qualifies this canon as the “old law” referred to in the introductory canons of the 1917 Code. Canon 6 §4 reads: “In case of doubt whether some provision of the canons differs from the old law, one must adhere to the old law.” Certainly doubt has been cast on the status of those who are to be considered heretics, apostates and schismatics and by what laws; also the validity of papal elections. So this law singlehandedly removes all such doubt.

Pope Pius VI, “Charitas”

“24. We therefore severely forbid the said Expilly and the other wickedly elected and illicitly consecrated men, under this punishment of suspension, to assume episcopal jurisdiction or any other authority for the guidance of souls since they have never received it. They must not grant dimissorial letters for ordinations. Nor must they appoint, depute, or confirm pastors, vicars, missionaries, helpers, functionaries, ministers, or others, whatever their title, for the care of souls and the administration of the Sacraments under any pretext of necessity whatsoever. Nor may they otherwise act, decree, or decide, whether separately or united as a council, on matters which relate to ecclesiastical jurisdiction. For We declare and proclaim publicly that all their dimissorial letters and deputations or confirmations, past and future, as well as all their rash proceedings and their consequences, are utterly void and without force…”

The above obviously refers to a lack of jurisdiction, without which the acts of these men were of no effect. Some have said that despite Pius VI’s decision, Pope Pius VII later reinstated all the constitutional bishops. This he could do as he had not impugned their consecration as bishops but only qualified them as illicit and lacking jurisdiction, voiding any of their future acts. Pius VII did however, at one point, complain in a letter to King Louis XVIII written in 1816: “of the bad faith of the constitutional bishops, protesting that the old bishops had not only refused to resign, but had, by writing and conduct, assailed the Holy See. ‘We willingly forget the offenses shown to us personally,’ he wrote the French king. ‘But we cannot forget those offered to the authority and dignity of the Church and of its head. Now in case any of these bishops are nominated to sees, they cannot obtain canonical institution from us unless they first give the Church and the Holy See suitable satisfaction,’” (Artaud de Montor, “The Lives and Times of the Popes,” 1911). The king suggested these bishops resign, but the pope became ill and the negotiations were delayed. Because of his failing health, “The Pope was more anxious to bring the affairs of the Church of France to a definite form…On May 30, 1819, the bishops, to the number of 40, wrote warmly to the pope. Pius VII replied by a brief, which finally arranged all,” (Ibid.).

Certainly there were no concessions to these bishops, only Pius VII’s need to resolve matters while they yet were able to be resolved. Doubtless they still were obliged to offer certain satisfaction to the Holy See for their actions, as Pius VII indicated.

Pope Pius IX,  “Quae in patriarchatu,” 1876:

“In fact, Venerable Brothers and beloved Sons, it is a question of recognizing the power (of this See), even over your churches, not merely in what pertains to faith, but also in what concerns discipline. He who would deny this is a heretic; he who recognizes this and obstinately refuses to obey is worthy of anathema,” (emph. mine — Pope Pius IX, September 1, 1876, to the clergy and faithful of the Chaldean Rite).

As Rev. J. Tixeront explains in his “Holy Orders and Ordination” (1928):

“The Apparatus of Innocent IV (1243-1254) expounds the theory that the pope has the right to place diriment impediments not only for Matrimony, but also for the conferring of all the Sacraments, Baptism included. As Saltet remarks, this theory tells volumes about the development given to the idea of pontifical authority since the time of Gregory VII and Urban II.” 

This theory was later borne out by Pope Paul IV’s bull, Cum ex Apostolatus Officio, which declared all heretics, apostates and schismatics unable to be restored to their positions and bound them by all the ancient penalties for heresies, which are much more stringent than those in the 1917 Code. It later bore fruit at the Vatican Council with the definition of infallibility, which made it clear that the pope possessed the supreme power of jurisdiction and could rule as he saw fit. Concerning Pope Pius IX’s statement above, we deny the ability of the popes to rule in matters of discipline, taught as revealed truth at the Vatican Council, whenever the statement is made that the Church cannot make laws Herself that inflict binding censures and penalties. Under Pope Pius XII the right to bind by diriment impediment was exercised once again as a precaution during interregnums, lest wolves penetrate the sheepfold and savage the flock when the Church was at her most vulnerable point. This prevented the Sacraments from suffering injury and the faithful from involving themselves in countless sins of sacrilege.

Yes, on this site it has been stated that Traditionalists commit sacrilege by frequenting Traditional priests, but this is would be true only if such priests were initially ordained under Pope Pius XII and never participated in communicatio in sacris. For if the conclusions of this pope’s infallible pronouncement above are properly traced out, the Eucharist was never defiled because it was never consecrated and none of the other Sacraments were even conveyed. While absolution was never received sacramentally, the all-merciful God remitted, no doubt, the sins of those faithful of good will who made  Perfect Acts of Contrition and expressed true sorrow for their sins, not realizing they were not receiving the actual Sacrament of Penance. So-called Traditionalist clerics never received ordination or consecration, per Pope Pius XII’s law. These clerics incurred infamy of law for simulating the Sacraments and the faithful are guilty of communicatio in sacris themselves and of adoring bread as God, but the Sacraments themselves were never assaulted. The only way that Pius XII could protect the rights and laws of the Church was to exercise his supreme authority in these matters, which he did in his Constitution. Rather than deprive Catholics of the Sacraments, it saved them from committing many grievous mortal sins directly against the Sacred Species they profess to love, although they still fell into idolatrous worship and cooperation in sin and also incurred censure.


From Donald Attwater’s “A Catholic Dictionary”: 

“Diriment impediments are obstacles arising either from natural law or the law of the Church which prohibits marriage between the persons affected and makes null and void any attempted marriage between them…Impediments to ordination [include] the perpetual impediments called irregularities,” which can be dispensed from only by the pope, (Can. 2314 no. 3 and Canons 2294, 2295). Above we see the actual declaration of such impediments by Pope Pius XII. What can be gleaned from the few theologians who have spoken about the invalidity of Orders and how the Church has historically viewed the issue is conflicting. But a few observations might help clear up the confusion.

  1. In no way will any true Catholic ever question the validity of orders conferred by a bishop who is validly ordained and consecrated himself under the reign of Pope Pius XII, has not affiliated with the Novus Ordo or any other non-Catholic sects and otherwise has not committed heresy, apostasy or schism. Such a bishop can ordain only a baptized man deemed fit for ordination, who rightly has satisfied the prerequisites to determine such fitness, has completed the required seminary training, and is duly tonsured by his proper ordinary, on the condition that both are in communion with the Roman Pontiff. Thus, the necessary examination having been conducted, using the proper matter and form and possessing the right intention — and being in reception of any required dimissorial letters — such a bishop proceeds to valid ordination. Such ordinations, depending on the circumstances, probably would be illicit during an interregnum, but valid. Show us truly humble, pious and obedient bishops in communion with a canonically elected pope and we will be only too happy to grant them the honor and respect they and those they ordain and consecrate deserve. But until then, we cannot honor imposters who refuse obedience to the Holy See.
  1. The same is true concerning episcopal Orders except that in this case three bishops must consecrate or in necessity priests may substitute for one or two of the bishops. The papal mandate also must be presented.  Such consecrations cannot be performed during an interregnum, however, because they require the mandate, which proceeds from papal jurisdiction, (see Vacantis Apostolica Sedis).
  1. But the situation changes when a) bishops as described in (1) above publicly embrace the Novus Ordo and its pretend popes, or found a Traditionalist sect, incurring communicatio in sacris and infamy of law; b) anytime either the one ordaining/consecrating, the one being ordained or consecrated or both are members of non-Catholic sects, even if they were validly baptized. In the case of (a), any ecclesiastical acts attempted are nullified by Pope Pius XII whenever papal laws are broken. Disregarding the dispensation from infamy of law required in order that one may validly function as a cleric is considered a usurpation of papal jurisdiction. Disobeying the law of Pope Paul IV concerning excommunication for heresy apostasy or schism and engaging in ecclesiastical acts without the requisite power also is a violation of papal law. Where (b) is concerned, the Catholic Church has never considered the “ordinations” by non-Catholic sects presenting as Catholic certainly valid, as demonstrated below and elsewhere on this site. She considers them either possibly valid (and a sacrament not certainly valid cannot be received per DZ 1151) or invalid on their face. In any case the jurisdiction necessary for valid conferral of the Sacraments was always lacking regardless of the status of their Orders, which is why the popes for over 100 years supplied jurisdiction to the Orthodox. And all their acts were nullified prior to their commission owing to infamy of law.
  1.  Pohle and Preuss (Sacraments, Vol. IV) report that even though Leo XIII’s Apostolica Curae was not released until the 1800s, Pope Paul IV declared Anglican Orders using the Edwardine ordinal null and void in 1555. Popes Paul and Leo’s decisions were based on the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas that “if any substantial part of the sacramental form be suppressed, the essential sense of the words is destroyed and consequently the Sacrament becomes invalid,” (Summa Theol. 3, ques. 60, art. 8). This same teaching and suppression easily applies to the ordination and consecration rites of the Novus Ordo, also the “consecration” of the wine in the Novus Ordo Missae “canon.”
  1. While holding the proper teaching that those who receive orders even from heretics or schismatics, (those validly and licitly ordained in the true Church who later left her pale), Rev. Bernard Leeming admits that, “it was never said that heresy as such, or moral obloquy as such, invalidated an ordination. It was always this particular heresy, this particular wickedness of usurpation of rights, or of simony which was claimed to have invalidated ordinations.” This simply means that ordinarily the Church judges these things on a case-by-case basis, and does not condemn individual acts on a wholesale basis. Rev. Clarence McAuliffe, S.J., in his “Sacramental Theology” comments that “A minister who lacks the Catholic faith can administer the Sacraments validly, [but this] does not prove that all of those who lack the Catholic faith can validly baptize or confer the other Sacraments.” (Both Leeming and McAuliffe agree that those who administer the Sacraments illicitly do not confer graces with their ministration, as St. Thomas teaches.) We must remember, however, that they speak of cases occurring in normal times, not during an interregnum. During an interregnum all acts committed contrary to papal law are to be considered as null and void, at least until a true pope can be canonically elected.

In his 1960s articles for the Homiletic and Pastoral Review, Joseph Prudzik examines the intention of a minister of the Polish National Church ordained by those several times removed from an initially validly ordained and consecrated breakaway bishop. Prudzik noted concerning the Polish National Catholic Church minister and his consecrators: “It is not as safe, however, to concede the valid Orders of Stenhoven’s successors [Stenhoven being the initial breakaway Jansenist bishop in the 1770s] as one might grant the original validity of his own Orders…One can only conclude there is some doubt about validity.” And it must be remembered that Catholics cannot use questionably valid clerics for the Sacraments re Pope Innocent’s condemnation of this practice in DZ 1151.

  1. “The history of the Church…records a number of instances in which the Sacrament of Orders conferred by antipopes, simoniacs, or schismatics was regarded as useless, and in some cases apparently repeated.” Leeming writes. However, he denies that the Church can place conditions on validity and even states that Canon Law books do not treat of irregularities in the context of sacramental validity! (Revs. Woywod-Smith list an entire paragraph of citations for this subject in their Index.) He cites the teaching of Innocent IV above but then states that there is no proof such impediments can or have been exercised by the Church. If they do have effect, it applies only to liciety, not validity, he contends. Yet we have the examples of such restrictions affecting validity from the popes above. Leeming tends to credit lack of internal intention for invalidating the Sacraments, a safe place to retreat because it is so hard to prove.

In his Appendix, Rev. Leeming referred to the opinion of one Pere Bouesse that the Sacraments must be delivered within a “vital context” that encompasses the sacramental sign and the signification of that sign, which is the grace the Sacrament confers. We must remember that those lacking jurisdiction do not confer these graces and today fail even to confer the Sacraments, yet they continue to ordain and consecrate each other without the means necessary to confer such graces. So where is the vital context? While Leeming noted that this opinion cannot apply to Matrimony, he agreed that the “ecclesiological and sacred setting” of the Sacrament, in its vital context, “has definite application to the case of ‘hole and corner’ ordinations by wandering bishops and deserves further pondering as to that application.” Sacraments conferred outside the will of Christ and the mind of the Church cannot retain their necessary vital context.

  1. Leeming contends that the controversy concerning the validity of ordinations by those outside the Church appears to yet be an open question, which may be the case, although the practice of the Church and the decisions of the Holy Office concerning the validity of Old Catholic orders seems to indicate otherwise. (See /articles/a-catholics-course-of-study/traditionalist-heresies-and-errors/true-status-of-schismatic-priests-and-bishops-ignored/status-of-those-ordainedconsecrated-by-schismatics/). Traditionalists consistently confuse the fact that in these times Pope Pius XII’s law makes it impossible for ordinations and consecrations to ever take place because they have no effect whatsoever, and we apologize here for not making this clearer in the first place. This is not about the invalidity of ordinations/consecrations but the existence of a diriment impediment that prevents the acts from ever taking place. This renders any subsequent acts posited on the belief orders exists of no effect. Traditionalism was specifically established to replace the Catholic Church or act in collaboration with the heretical Novus Ordo church from its inception; this subject is explored in the latest article on this site regarding the Masonic origins of Traditionalism. It is a non-Catholic sect which was never Catholic, and those among its ministers who were validly ordained under Pope Pius XII have all committed communicatio in sacris and incurred infamy of law. This is not speculation or a “lay judgment”: it is based on all the previous disciplinary decrees and other papal decrees extant before the death of Pius XII.

Rev. Ignatius Szal remarks in his Canon Law dissertation, “Communication of Catholics With Schismatics,” that in the late 12th century when the antipope Victor IV and Paschal III reigned, “These schismatics had ordained many of their adherents to the episcopate…The Third Lateran Council took action by declaring that the ordinations performed by these schismatic popes were null and void, as also the ordinations conferred by those who had been consecrated by them…The Canon used the word “irritas” in reference to the ordinations conferred by the schismatics. However the term was to be understood in reference to the execution or the exercise of these orders, rather than to their validity…Clement VIII in his Instruction Sanctissimus Aug. 31, 1595 stated that those who had received ordination at the hand of schismatic bishops who apart from their schismatic status were properly consecrated — the necessary form having been observed — did indeed receive orders but not the right to exercise them…”  Is it any wonder, then, that if this was the procedure in usual times, when a true pope reigned, that Pope Pius XII would have battened down the hatches during an interregnum, especially when many of these Traditionalist “bishops” never became bishops or lost their office, (Lefebvre and Thuc)?!

Source of confusion concerning invalid acts

As so often is the case, Leeming, Jesuit though he was, seems to have confused apostolicity and jurisdiction somehow with the power of Orders. Concerning irregularity, he mistakenly holds that infamy of law renders one able to administer illicit but valid Sacraments, confusing this state with that of infamy of fact. Canonists Woywod-Smith, also Revs. Augustine, H. A. Ayrinhac and Bouscaren-Ellis all agree that those guilty of infamy of law cannot perform legitimate acts; Augustine and Woywod-Smith claim that these acts would not even be valid. But infamy of law was levied as a penalty in Pope Paul IV’s Cum ex Apostolatus Officio depriving the delinquent of any power whatsoever to exercise their ministry, and this is the law that prevails today. These canonists are clear, as Leeming is clear about irregularity, that these vindicative penalties only affect persons, not anything or anyone else. It seems beyond him that anyone could invalidate acts only appearing to be sacramental, and yet this would mean that bishops and the popes were unable to declare marriages null and void from the outset, when such cases were decided on a regular basis. This is particularly interesting because marriage is the only Sacrament which enjoys a presumption of validity in the law. So if even marriages could be declared null and void ab initio (from the beginning) when the presumption was shown to fail in certain cases, why could this not also be the case concerning any of the other Sacraments, if the Church so declared?

Along this same vein, Leeming also refutes the arguments of authors who claim that the Church has the power to “put conditions on the Sacraments,” (referring to irregularities and diriment impediments). He views this statement as rejected by theologians, because it is tantamount to the “power [of the Church] to add conditions to what Christ instituted.” He cites the following as his main argument against the author Umberg: “If Christ Himself settled the substance of a Sacrament, then he settled this substance as a means of grace and it sounds ill to suggest [otherwise]…To add such invalidating conditions would effectively be to change what Christ instituted,” and this seems to be the very reasoning Traditionalists resort to when rejecting the possibility of sacramental invalidity.  But here and above, Leeming misses the entire bigger picture.

Leeming mistakenly believes that by declaring diriment impediments or irregularities, then enforcing and upholding the effects of these impediments the Church somehow is actually placing conditions on the Sacraments themselves, but this is not true.  When a marriage is declared null and void because a certain diriment impediment existed unknown to the pastor or the parties, an actual marriage is not annulled; it is decided that such a marriage never happened in the first place. When a man is ordered to be “re”ordained and /or retrained, as has happened with certain Old Catholics and others, it is determined that he was never ordained to begin with. This is not placing conditions on the Sacraments; this is rendering a judgment, which the ecclesiastical courts, Ordinaries and the Holy Father regularly did, concerning not the validity of the Sacrament itself but of something necessary to the Sacrament that is lacking or something present that is not permitted by Divine or natural law. In marriage it would be the first-degree kinship of the spouses; in Orders it could be the lack of proper form used in the ordination, or lack of virtual intention. These are not conditions; insisting that the Sacraments be performed exactly as the Church prescribes is upholding the framework established by Christ and His Vicars.

In the case of infamy of law incurred by Traditionalists who have committed communicatio in sacris, Catholics are to consider their acts invalid, as the remainder of Pope Paul IV’s paragraph 5 and his paragraph 6 indicates; Can. 2314 deals with heresy, apostasy, schism, AND infamy ipso facto. The law also states per Cum ex… that all offices are lost without any declaration. Because we are to follow Cum ex… in these times, owing to the doubt concerning the laws governing heresy, apostasy and schism, and Paul IV renews all the old penalties for heresy in his bull, we are subject to the full rigor of these laws today. The Gallicanists, Jansenists and Modernists, still very much at work in Traditionalism today, are the age-old enemies of discipline, and discipline is what is really at work here. Cum ex…was an infallible disciplinary decree. The Liberals have said for decades that discipline is not infallible but it can be, and to deny that the popes can exercise it is heretical, as Pope Pius IX states above.

It is interesting to note that the modern rendition of DZ 326 in Denzinger’s, stated in the correct Latin version by Cardinal Manning in his work on the Holy See and Civil Allegiance, omits the words “for ecclesiastical discipline.” The correct version reads: “If anyone condemns dogmas, mandates, interdicts, sanctions, or decrees promulgated by one presiding in the Apostolic See for the Catholic Faith, for ecclesiastical discipline, for the correction of the faithful, for the emendation of criminals, either by an interdict or of threatening or of future ills, let him be anathema.” We read also from the Vatican Council: “If anyone thus speaks that the Roman Pontiff has …not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the universal Church, not only in things that pertain to faith and morals but also in those which pertain to discipline…over the pastors and the faithful altogether and individually, let him be anathema,” (DZ 1831). And from Pope St. Pius X in Pascendi Dominici Gregis: “Any society needs a directing authority…Hence the triple authority in the Catholic Church: disciplinary, dogmatic, liturgical,” (DZ 2091).

So when Pope Pius XII, invoking his supreme apostolic authority, establishes a diriment impediment forbidding anyone during an interregnum, even the cardinals, from usurping papal jurisdiction and breaking papal laws, what are we to assume? Well we assume he means business and that anyone who breaks these laws, including Canon Law, is liable to the penalty. That penalty states that any breakage of the law, or rather any attempted breakage of the law or violation of Church rights, is null and void. That law could easily involve the Sacraments because there are many papal laws concerning Sacraments, including Quo Primum. If Cum ex… and Canon Law states that the hierarchy cannot function if they have committed communicatio in sacris, then they cannot function. If Pope Pius XII’s Ad Apostolorum Principis insists that bishops cannot consecrate without the papal mandate (they do so illicitly when a pope reigns but attempts to consecrate are nullified during an interregnum) then they fail to consecrate without the mandate. If the Vatican Council and Pope Pius IX teach that the pope alone has supreme jurisdiction, and Vacantis Apostolica Sedis teaches that the usurpation of papal jurisdiction during an interregnum is automatically nullified, then no cleric can ever claim supplied jurisdiction under Can. 209 OR Can. 2261 §2, because historically it has never been supplied by anyone but the Popes.

Pope Pius XII is not placing conditions on the Sacraments but on the acts of persons; likewise Pope Paul IV. To deny the popes possess this right is to place oneself outside the Church. Anyone who thinks he receives orders against papal law during an interregnum receives nothing; the attempt is void. Any attempt to exercise orders is useless for they were never received. The Sacraments are not invalid per se; there can be no Sacraments — the priestly and the jurisdictional powers both are lacking; apostolicity cannot exist. The indelible mark of the priest or bishop is not impugned because it could never be received. Those priests who were validly ordained in the 1950s still retain that mark, but infamy of law forbids them to usurp the papal act of dispensing themselves from infamy of law or seeking dispensation from anyone but the pope. And Cum ex…, under Can. 6§4 invalidates any act they attempt as heretics and schismatics. If Pope Pius XII had not defined the dogma that bishops receive their jurisdiction only through the Roman Pontiff and not directly from Christ Himself, as many insistently contended in the late 1800s following the definition of infallibility, the Old Catholics who infiltrated the Traditionalists would have reigned supreme and uncontested. Pius XII is the bane of their existence and we can only thank God he foresaw this situation and did all he could to secure the Barque of Peter before the inevitable flood of apostasy washed over Her decks.


It does not take a papal definition concerning validity to conclude that the Church considers Traditionalists as unable to transmit the Sacraments during an interregnum. Regardless of the perceived “emergency” this cannot be the case unless the documents of Popes and Councils have lost all force. The dogma of papal infallibility was accepted long before the Vatican Council definition and Pope Paul IV declared Anglican orders null and void three centuries before Pope Leo XIII wrote Apostolica Curae. Even the jurisdiction argument pales in comparison and becomes largely irrelevant when it is once realized that establishing churches and calling them Catholic when there is no hierarchy brings down on Catholics infamy of law, which can be dispensed only by the Pope, as an exercise of his papal jurisdiction. So it is clear that functioning as though one had been dispensed from this law or was exempt from it IS a usurpation of this jurisdiction and also a denial of the Vatican Council dogma that the Roman Pontiff holds supreme jurisdiction in the Church, even in disciplinary matters. Traditionalists can quote Canons 209 and 2261 §2 all they want  — there is no pope to supply the necessary jurisdiction for them to activate this canon and they cannot get around that. They can point to the integrity and holiness of their “priests” all they wish but as Cardinal Pie said, such holiness is based on orthodoxy, not external appearances, and anyway, they never became priests or cannot function as priests owing to infamy of law. They can pretend all they like that the Catholic Church can exist as a juridical entity without a pope but not only do they refuse to accept Catholic dogma, they deny the main premise upon which Christ founded his Church — the papacy — an historic fact documented by the Church. They live in a fantasy world and nothing, it seems, can free them from their irrational thinking.

But the proofs of their clerics’ collective incapacity to act  — from the popes, primarily, but also the theologians — is definitely there.  And it also has been proven from several other different angles as well. It is not the “priests or bishops,” even if they were certainly clerics, but the popes that Catholics must obey to attain eternal salvation, as Pope Boniface VIII taught: “We declare, say, define and proclaim to every creature that they, by necessity for salvation, are subject to the Roman Pontiff.” Read here the last Roman Pontiff on earth, Pius XII; yet no one follows his laws for interregnums or anything else, for that matter. Christ founded his Church upon a rock, that rock being St. Peter and his successors. When the Traditionalists leaders rushed to save the Mass, they effectively deflected all emphasis from the restoration of the papacy, although it was not God’s will that it be restored at that time. Still, the remaining validly ordained priests had the strict obligation to obey the continual magisterium and teach the faithful its truths. They also should have pointed out the signs of the times — the completion of the great apostasy and the advent of Antichrist. The few who did, unfortunately, continued to offer mass and sacraments. The faithful never realized that without the pope, the juridical Church cannot exist.

If Traditionalists were really that concerned about reaching heaven, for all their pretended pursuit of the “graces” they receive in their “sacraments,” they would be reading and obeying previous papal pronouncements, not slavishly following and obeying their guru “priests and bishops.” It is all a show, a sham with them, to appear to be and represent something they cannot be or represent. We know what Christ said about whited sepulchers. It is high time that Traditionalists throw out the dead men’s bones of their leaders and “get real.”

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  1. Thomas Hughes

    I am divided in my mind over this: The case you make seems compelling but then I am stuck trying to figure out how to understand some of the Eucharistic miracles that have been documented and have occurred in Novus Ordo Masses, one as recently as 2006. These hosts have been subjected to scientific scrutiny and found to consist not only of human heart tissue, but living human heart tissue. Human heart tissue can only live if it is part of a person and what other person could there be except Jesus Christ? The devil can certainly do “signs and wonders” but he cannot confect God nor do I think he could create even an ordinary living human being. Granted, a person cannot base their faith on private revelation and miracles, but completely ignoring them, or come up with some explanation that explains them, isn’t right, either. The Pharisees knew the law of Moses backward and forward and scorned the credulous masses who were “duped” by our Lord’s miracles. God is trying to tell us something with this miraculous visible evidence of transubstantiation, but I am not sure what: Valid but illicit? Valid and licit? I’m not sure.

    • T. Stanfill Benns

      Without a true pope monitoring what scientists are currently doing and the methods they are using to determine these things, one can have no true certainty regarding these “miracles.” When it comes down to the question of believing in them based on science alone versus all the other evidence provided that this is not, and can never be, the true Church of Christ, we have a matter of basing one’s eternal salvation on something that may or may not be true involving the Sacraments.

      There is doubt here, and you express this in your email. When we have such doubt regarding the Sacraments and eternal salvation, we must take the safer course according to the unanimous opinion of theologians. Please see my blog piece on epikeia and Canon Law for more information.


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