VACANTIS APOSTOLICAE SEDIS Vindicated
VACANTIS APOSTOLICAE SEDIS*
DE SEDE APOSTOLICA VACANTE ET DE ROMANI PONTIFICIS ELECTIONE
(Heading under Pope Pius XII’s election Constitution at Vatican.va
demonstrating it is an apostolic constitution.
- The charge that there has been a false “interpretation” of Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis (VAS) is hereby refuted. The sense of this document is taken from the canonists approved by the Church, and from ancient Church documents cited in VAS itself.
- Only the cardinals were commissioned with the right to resolve any doubts regarding this constitution and it should go without saying that this cannot in any way devolve upon men claiming — against the clear, infallible directives of VAS itself — that they are clerics, in violation of this very law.
- The opinion advanced contrary to the prohibitions of VAS — that during an interregnum bishops constitute the Catholic Church without Her Supreme Head — can clearly be traced to the initial appearance of the Gallicanist heresy during the time of the Western Schism.
- VAS alone infallibly declares those “consecrated” during an interregnum without the papal mandate are incapable of exercising their orders, lacking the mandate.
Preamble to VAS
“Continually in the course of the centuries, Our Predecessors solemnly determined to order and define the procedures of governance of the vacant Apostolic See and the election of the Roman Pontiff, for which they were supposed to provide; and in the same manner they endeavored to apply themselves with watchful care and to devote their energies to useful rules in the weighty business divinely entrusted to the Church, to wit, electing the successor of Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, who on this earth is the Vicar of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and as supreme Pastor and Head feeds and rules all the Lord’s flock.
“However, since there was already a desire to have collected into one place these laws about electing the Roman Pontiff, enlarged in number in preceding ages, and since some of them, less accommodated to special circumstances, had become outdated on account of changed conditions, the great man Pius X, our Predecessor, with judicious advice decided forty years ago to reduce them (appropriately selected) to a summary, having published the well-known Constitution Vacante Sede Apostolica on the twenty-fifth of December of the year 1904…
“Wherefore, having seasonably considered the matter, SURE OF THE KNOWLEDGE AND THE PLENITUDE OF OUR APOSTOLIC POWER, WE have undertaken to publish and promulgate this Constitution, which is the same as that given by Pius X, of holy memory, but reformed throughout, “which,” to use the words of the same Predecessor of Ours, “THE SACRED COLLEGE OF CARDINALS SHALL SOLELY USE during the vacancy of the Apostolic See and in electing the Roman Pontiff,” the Constitution Vacante Sede Apostolica, having therefore been abrogated, according as it had been brought forth by Our Predecessor Pius X. But let the chapters of Our Constitution at hand be considered as these that follow.
Comment: Confirmed as follows in The Catholic Encyclopedia Dictionary, 1941: “All previous legislation concerning the conclave was codified and renewed by Pius X’s bull, Vacante Sede Apostolica (Dec. 25, 1904). The bull of Pius X is rather a codification than a reform.” Pope St. Pius X, then, commenced the codification of Canon Law by beginning at the top with the codification of the laws governing papal election.
In the second paragraph of the preamble above, Pope Pius XII explains that the entire constitution of Pope St. Pius X was a codification of all papal election law. So when we read this constitution, we know that we are not just reading any papal document, but the most relevant and important elements of what the Church practiced throughout Her entire history in electing Christ’s vicars. Moreover, as noted above, this is a most solemn document, and one that is both infallible and doctrinal in nature as well as one that reforms the previous papal election law listed under Can. 160. This will be addressed below.
ON THE VACANT APOSTOLIC SEE CHAPTER I
Concerning the Power of the Sacred College of Cardinals while the Apostolic See is Vacant
- 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. (1) 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 laws 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.
- 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. (3)
- Nevertheless, if any doubts should arise concerning the sense of the regulations that are contained in this Our Constitution, or even concerning the means according to which these things should be set forth in practice, or about any other chapter at all of this our Constitution, We ordain and declare that the power of imposing an authoritative decision about these things is only in the hands of the Sacred College of Cardinals, for which purpose We grant full faculty to the same Sacred College of Cardinals…
 Pii IV Const. In eligendis, VII Idus Oct. 1562, § 6; Clem. XII Const. Apostolatus officium, IV Non. Oct. 1732, § 6.
 Clem. V in Conc. Viennensi, cap. 2, Ne Romani in pr. de elect., I, 3 in Clem.
 Leonis XIII Const. Praedecessores Nostri, 24 Maii 1882.
The following interpretation of VAS is given below:
(The above paragraph was excerpted from A Practical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, Revs. Stanislaus Woywod and Callistus Smith, 1957; Appendix III commentary on VAS. This same statement can be found almost word for word in Revs. Bouscaren-Ellis’ Canon Law, A Text and Commentary under Can. 219)
Comments on paragraphs 1-4 above
Notice that Revs. Woywod-Smith state the following regarding VAS.
- Even the Sacred College of Cardinals cannot exercise the jurisdiction enjoyed by the pope during his lifetime.
- All acts of jurisdiction must be left to the future pope.
- No corrections, changes or dispensations can be made regarding the rights and laws of the Church.
- Only the cardinals are able to resolve any doubts (preamble and para. 4)
Pope Pius XII clearly states that should anyone even attempt to usurp papal jurisdiction, or to correct, change, add or dispense from any of the laws of the Church, such attempts or acts are null and void. This would include:
- acting without the papal mandate contrary to the Sacred Canons, which several documents throughout Church history, beginning with the Council of Trent and even before that time, dating to the 5th century, clearly show as reserved only to the Roman Pontiff;
- the establishment of seminaries, acceptance of those professing a vocation and any attempt at ordinations and
- presuming the existence of supplied jurisdiction to provide Mass and Sacraments, or claiming, as the Protestants do, that such jurisdiction is provided directly by Christ. Such jurisdiction can be supplied only by a reigning pontiff and has never been supplied in any other way.
- Only the cardinals are able to resolve any doubts regarding VAS.
- The violations of the Sacred Canons are too numerous to mention here.
This summary and explanation of Pius XII’s election law above was made by approved and seasoned canonists writing during Pope Pius XII’s reign. All papal election laws are promulgated to provide the maximum protection for the Church when She is at Her most vulnerable point — during the vacancy of the Holy See. VAS is also further validated by Pope Pius XII’s subsequent definition of the extent of episcopal powers, issued three years later in Mystici Corporis and Ad sinarum gentum. Pope Pius XII knew well the dangers the Church faced and not only his revision of VAS but his pronouncements in many other papal documents reflect this. But as will be demonstrated below, VAS does not stand alone; it is also based solidly on the practices of the Church throughout the ages.
Historical significance of VAS
A discussion of the history behind Pope Pius XII’s infallible teaching in the first three paragraphs (and other portions of the constitution that follow) is related by the historian Walter Ullmann in his work, The Origins of the Great Schism (1948). A little background should be given here before delving into the points brought out in this discussion and why they were relevant at the time. Historically, Gallicanism first reared its head as a heresy during the Western Schism in the teachings of several men condemned as heretics, among them Marsilius of Padua, John Jandun, John Hus and Wycliffe. The theologians Pierre d’Ailly and Jean Gerson, also Conrad Gelnhausen, supported the Gallicanist position, not formally condemned until the 1600s. So what exactly is Gallicanism?
“The Gallican school held 1) that the Pope’s definitions were not infallible in themselves but only after acceptance by the Universal Church and 2) that a general council’s authority was above that of a Pope” (M.L. Cozens, in his 1928 A Handbook of Heresies). To this should be added the errors of Febronianism, first advocated by the German bishop of Trier, Johann Nickolaus von Hontheim, (using the pseudonym Febronius), in 1763. Hontheim taught that Christ did not give “…the power of the keys to Peter but to the whole Church; that the pope’s power, as head of the whole Church… is of an administrative and unifying character, rather than a power of jurisdiction. “Hontheim advanced along the same lines, in spite of many inconsistencies, to a radicalism far outstripping traditional Gallicanism” (The Catholic Encyclopedia). It is Hontheim’s Febronian version of Gallicanism, foreshadowed by opinions advanced during the Western Schism, that prevails today.
Two lay canonists writing at the time of the Western Schism early on contended that Urban VI was the true pope. The names of these canonists were Baldus de Ubaldis and Joannes de Lignano. Ullmann calls Ubaldis one of the two “greatest jurists of the 14th century.” Lignano he styles as enjoying respect and “authority in ecclesiastical circles… His reputation was great.” Concerning their determinations, Ullmann relates what later became law under future popes: “Both jurists deal at length with the authority of the cardinals over the pope and both reach the conclusion that cardinals have no jurisdictional powers over the pope; they cannot be accusers, witnesses, and judges in one… all disputes concerning intentions, motives and will must be decided by a judge, but who should be the judge in this case? Certainly nobody else but a general council… [which could only be] lawfully summoned by… Urban VI… Baldus refers to a commentary of Clem. I.iii.2, which passage expressly lays down that during a vacancy the Sacred College cannot exercise papal jurisdiction, nor can the cardinals change the constitution of the Church,” and here Ullmann notes this is found in Pope Pius X’s Vacante Sedis Apostolica. This quotation is cited in the footnotes to Pope Pius XII’s constitution above. So clearly it is an ages-old teaching held by the Church.
The conciliarists (those believing a council able to dictate to the pope) taught that a council could be called by the people, because the congregation of all Christians is superior to the pope. Ubaldis and Lignano taught that Urban VI and his line was the true pope and must call the council, because no one is superior to the pope. This ultimately was the teaching followed to call the Council of Constance and end the schism. The conciliarists’ propositions presented at the council were never approved by the Apostolic See, being explicitly rejected by Pope Martin V. As mentioned above, the Gallicanist heresy was condemned in 1682 and The Catholic Encyclopedia article on Gallicanism states: “Stricken to death, as a free opinion, by the Council of the Vatican, Gallicanism could survive only as a heresy; the Old Catholics have endeavoured to keep it alive under this form.” This was certainly the intent of Henry Cardinal Manning, who lists in his reasons for calling the Vatican Council:
“Gallicanism is nationalism: that which the Gospel casts out; that which grew up again in medieval Christendom. It is the Christian Judaism which strove to elect its own High Priest; the national factions which rent the Sacred College; the nationalism which set up two or three uncanonical Popes, and two or three national obediences; the spirit of egotism, worldliness, and avarice, which caused whole nations of Europe to apostatise from the Divine will, from the unity of the Church, and to erect Lutheranism, Calvinism, and Anglicanism on the schismatical basis of national Churches… The Gallicanism of 1682 was a feeble imitation of the preamble of the 24th of Henry VIII, by which the schism of England was accomplished.” So basically Cardinal Manning believes that Gallicanism was the prelude to Protestantism, the beginning of the conspiracy to rob the pope of his Christ-given jurisdictional powers. And with the resurgence of Gallicanism in the last century, this is what they have done. Below we shall see how Traditionalists have revived this heresy by denying VAS.
We will call this resurgence of Gallicanism in the 20th century neo-Gallicanism, because it does add new elements to the original heresy. These include the belief that:
- The existence of an interregnum can forever remain uncertain, as is pretended by those embracing the material/formal hypothesis.
- Formal heresy, existing pre-election but manifested only post-election, cannot be certainly determined and does not automatically depose one appearing to be pope from office.
- Pope Paul IV’s bull Cum ex Apostolatus Officio cannot be the old law governing these cases because it was abrogated by the 1917 Code of Canon Law.
- There is no strict obligation, in the case of an extended interregnum, for the laity to force the remaining cardinals/bishops to elect a pope once manifest heresy is ascertained.
- Despite infallible Church teaching, bishops alone can retain and continue the apostolic succession during an interregnum and can then rule the Church indefinitely, under the pretext of an emergency or “necessity.”
- That they can then claim supplied jurisdiction, which only a canonically elected pope can provide.
As stated many times on this site, if bishops such as Lefebvre, Castro de Meyer, (Mendez) and Thuc truly were Catholic and had the Church’s best interests at heart, they easily could have and should have convened an imperfect council called only to announce the deposition of the usurpers and elect a true pope, per the advice of St. Robert Bellarmine. That this was not the case tells us, or should, that they followed a hidden agenda and had no intention of perpetuating the papacy. Only those bishops consecrated under Pope Pius XII could validly have accomplished this. It was their sacred duty and obligation. They failed, and in truth they were not Catholic to begin with because almost immediately, they violated the only applicable laws that governed this situation — Pope Paul IV’s Cum ex… and Pope Pius XII’s VAS.
In so doing they denied every papal election law the Church has abided by throughout Her long history, not just that of Pope Pius XII. They denied the very right of the Church to nullify and preclude any breach of papal jurisdiction and Her Sacred Canons. It was once again two lay persons who had to remind these men of their responsibilities. And they themselves made huge mistakes, although this writer’s only intention was to champion the papacy. To the best of my knowledge the only mention of Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis ever published was made in this author’s first work, Will the Catholic Church Survive…? in 1990. At that time only a rough translation of this document was available. A better translation was made in 2012. In 1990, I allowed others to convince me that despite the infallible nature of VAS, Pope Pius XII would never have wished his law to impede a papal election and it would be a mortal sin to do so. This would be true of an election by valid bishops and clergy (but not the laity). However, I was not advanced enough in my studies then to understand this. For Traditionalists had done their best to obscure the true nature of infallibility and the strict obedience owed to papal decrees.
The question is: why does complete silence on the part of Traditionalists shroud this election constitution? And why have they been allowed to deny the applicability of Cum ex… to the current situation? Proofs demonstrating that the bull was never abrogated have been available since the mid-1980s, and further corroborating proofs were available on this site in the early 2000’s. They have never been refuted yet have been consistently ignored. This easily proves the ill-will and lack of Catholicity on the part of all those concerned. These two combined documents, Cum ex… and VAS — related historically on at least two points — could possibly have resolved the situation if those wishing to rally the faithful had mobilized them in the 1970s, 1980s and pressured any remaining bishops to act. Had they explained their inability to provide Mass and Sacraments unless this was done, the faithful would have been strongly motivated to pursue this course. Instead Traditionalists suppressed both documents and proceeded to violate the teachings of the Church by flaunting VAS and setting up mass centers, ordaining priests and consecrating bishops. For this had been their plan all along — to establish a headless Church answerable to no one.
Lefebvre was a member of the scandalous French secret society, the Priory of Sion; when asked about it, he never denied he was a member. In fact at one time, he most likely was this society’s grand master, reportedly sharing this “honor” with Angelo Roncalli. Other Traditionalist organizers in the US and Mexico who established mass centers in both countries belonged to the Priory’s sister organization, the St. John’s Knights of Jerusalem (Shickshinny Knights; see https://www.betrayedcatholics.com/free-content/reference-links/4-heresy/tracing-traditionalism-to-its-masonic-origins/ This was a set up folks, and for awhile at least, everyone fell for it. Many are still trapped in these Traditionalist sects, because they are either hopelessly brainwashed or unaware of their true origins. Knowledge of the absolute binding nature of Cum ex… and VAS, in order to remain members of the Catholic Church, would have prevented this, and Traditionalist “clergy” knew it. Holy Scripture cries, “My people have been silent, because they had no knowledge” (Osee 4: 6) and nothing could more aptly apply to Traditionalists than this verse. Are there supporting proofs showing further how these infallible decrees affect us today? There are, and this will be explained below.
The Mind of Pope Pius XII
What other clues do we have that Pope Pius XII was aware of this tendency to Gallicanism in the Church and was determined to stamp it out? Even before issuing VAS, in June 1943, Pope Pius XII had defined the role of the bishops in his infallible encyclical Mystici Corporis as follows: “Bishops must be considered as the more illustrious members of the Universal Church, for they are united by a very special bond to the divine Head of the whole Body and so are rightly called ‘principal parts of the members of the Lord;’ moreover, as far as his own diocese is concerned, each one as a true Shepherd feeds the flock entrusted to him and rules it in the name of Christ. Yet in exercising this office they are not altogether independent, but are subordinate to the lawful authority of the Roman Pontiff, although enjoying the ordinary power of jurisdiction which they receive directly from the same Supreme Pontiff…”
And again in October 1954, in Ad Sinarum Gentum the pope taught: “But the power of jurisdiction, which is conferred upon the Supreme Pontiff directly by divine rights, flows to the Bishops by the same right, but only through the Successor of St. Peter, to whom not only the simple faithful, but even all the Bishops must be constantly subject, and to whom they must be bound by obedience and with the bond of unity.” Henry Cardinal Manning had already addressed this topic in the 1870s (see Manning’s The Pastoral Office), and even then, the majority of bishops at that time believed as Pope Pius XII later taught: the bishops do not receive their jurisdiction directly from Christ but instead this jurisdiction flows to them from Christ only through His Vicar. And these pronouncement, Msgr. Joseph C. Fenton reports, are doctrina certa because a decision was made on a question formerly in dispute. Therefore it is not able to be challenged or reformed. This was clarified in the August 1950 issuance of Pope Pius XII’s infallible encyclical, Humani generis.
Another indication of Pope Pius XII’s mind in this matter is the authentic interpretation he approved June 29, 1950 regarding Canon 147, issued through the Sacred Congregation six weeks prior to releasing Humani generis. This canon is directly connected to the conferring of offices. It reads: “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.” Now according to the Sacred Canons and the rite of episcopal consecration, bishops can become bishops and receive their office only through the Roman Pontiff. Without such canonical appointment the office is not obtained. Isn’t this exactly what is stated in VAS?!
The decision of the Sacred Congregation (AAS 42-601) gives the text of DZ 967 and yet another version of DZ 960, varying slightly from the Denzinger translation: “Those who undertake to exercise these offices merely at the behest of and upon appointment by the people or secular power and authority, and those who assume the same upon their own authority, are all to be regarded not as ministers of the Church but as thieves and robbers who have entered not by the door… His holiness Pope Pius XII…in order to preserve more inviolate these same sacred principles and at the same time forestall abuses in a matter of such great importance… deigned to provide as follows…” (Canon Law Digest, Vol. 3, T. Lincoln Bouscaren, 1953).
And here several censures, specially reserved to the Holy See, are mentioned. These censures are quite interesting in themselves. They are incurred: “1) by those who contrive against legitimate ecclesiastical authority or who attempt in any way to subvert their authority; 2) by anyone who, without a canonical investiture or provision made according to the sacred canons, occupies an ecclesiastical office or benefice or dignity or allows anyone to be unlawfully intruded into the same or who retains the same and 3) by those who have any part directly or indirectly in the crimes mentioned in numbers one and two” (Ibid.).
It seems safe to say that someone who ignores all the laws regarding the proper reception of an office and sets themselves up as authorities outside the sacred canons would be considered by Pope Pius XII to have contrived against legitimate ecclesiastical authority, i.e., that of the Roman Pontiff. This would apply to Traditionalist “priests,” “bishops” and any among the faithful assisting them or adhering to them. Pope Pius XII once again addressed these same circumstances in Ad apostolorum principis, issued June 29, 1958, three months before his death. The problem had not gone away by any means but had surfaced in China. He wrote to the bishops there:
“38. For it has been clearly and expressly laid down in the canons that it pertains to the one Apostolic See to judge whether a person is fit for the dignity and burden of the episcopacy, and that complete freedom in the nomination of bishops is the right of the Roman Pontiff…
“45. Well known are the terms of the Vatican Council’s solemn definition: “Relying on the open testimony of the Scriptures and abiding by the wise and clear decrees both of our predecessors, the Roman Pontiffs, and the general Councils, We renew the definition of the Ecumenical Council of Florence, by virtue of which all the faithful must believe that ‘the Holy Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff hold primacy over the whole world, and the Roman Pontiff himself is the Successor of the blessed Peter and continues to be the true Vicar of Christ and head of the whole Church, the father and teacher of all Christians, and to him is the blessed Peter our Lord Jesus Christ committed the full power of caring for, ruling and governing the Universal Church….’
“46. We teach, . . . We declare that the Roman Church by the Providence of God holds the primacy of ordinary power over all others, and that this power of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff, which is truly episcopal, is immediate. Toward it, the pastors and the faithful of whatever rite and dignity, both individually and collectively, are bound by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, not only in matters which pertain to faith and morals, but also in those which concern the discipline and government of the Church spread throughout the whole world, in such a way that once the unity of communion and the profession of the same Faith has been preserved with the Roman Pontiff, there is one flock of the Church of Christ under one supreme shepherd. This is the teaching of the Catholic truth from which no one can depart without loss of faith and salvation.
“47. From what We have said, it follows that no authority whatsoever, save that which is proper to the Supreme Pastor, can render void the canonical appointment granted to any bishop; that no person or group, whether of priests or of laymen, can claim the right of nominating bishops; that no one can lawfully confer episcopal consecration unless he has received the mandate of the Apostolic See.
“48. Consequently, if consecration of this kind is being done contrary to all right and law, and by this crime the unity of the Church is being seriously attacked, an excommunication reserved specialissimo modo to the Apostolic See has been established which is automatically incurred by the consecrator and by anyone who has received consecration irresponsibly conferred.
For decades, Traditionalists have duplicitously attempted to exempt themselves from this encyclical using various deceits, most notably singling out the world “lawfully” to indicate that the consecration of their “bishops” has been unquestionably valid, if illicit. The rest they pretend to cover with epikeia, demonstrated historically in blog posts and articles on this site to be condemned by the Church when applied to episcopal consecrations. But here we are talking about bishops consecrating without the papal mandate who were themselves unquestionably validly consecrated while a Roman Pontiff was reigning, not men who were notorious heretics and schismatics, guilty of communicatio in sacris, branded with infamy, suspected of membership in a secret society and acting during an interregnum!
Therefore it is VAS, as the overriding document, supported by all the rest, specific to our situation, which prevails here. All these documents taken together can be seen to point to one thing and one thing only: no one may claim any consecration is certainly valid during an interregnum without the papal mandate. Those claiming such consecration were very likely only laymen to begin with, if one carefully traces out all the implications of the canons and VAS. And even if they were priests, priests cannot consecrate anyone.
Pope Pius XII’s curious addition to VAS
There is one other interesting detail that demonstrates Pope Pius XII’s true intent in revising Pope St. Pius X’s election law. The canonists Woywod-Smith explain that the revisions were made mainly to increase the vote needed for election from two-thirds to two-thirds plus one, to exclude the possibility that the candidate voted for himself. But in comparing the two election laws, one other notable addition is made, not present in Pope St. Pius X’s law. That addition is the insertion of the following phrase into paragraph three of the constitution:
“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.” Any attempt, then, to change any of the laws of the Church, or usurp her rights, especially those governing papal elections, are null and void. And this can only be seen to anticipate exactly what happened following Pius XII’s death. The pope’s addition of this phrase can be seen to be nothing less than a pointed statement that try as they might, all the Modernist, Gallicanist efforts to subvert the election of a true pope would come to naught.
One of those laws indirectly referenced in VAS (but not noted as such, coming from other sources as well) is none other than Cum ex Apostolatus Officio, which is retained in para. 36 concerning the deposition of cardinals (referring to Can. 188 §4, with Cum ex… cited by Gasparri as one of the fonts both from Pope Paul IV and Pope St. Pius V). Such deposition deprives one who has “publicly lapsed from the Catholic faith” of the office of cardinal, and only cardinals can participate in the election. This could and most likely did apply to a good number of cardinals attending the conclave, Roncalli especially, who gave more than one indication of his lapse from the faith in a public manner.
Another indirect reference to the bull is found in Pope St. Pius X’s/Pius XII’s citation of Paul IV’s 1558 Const. Cum secundum Apostolum, listed in the footnotes for paragraph 93 regarding the discussion of candidates for papal election prior to the death of the reigning pontiff. This bull of Paul IV’s made direct reference to the problems encountered with Cardinal Morone which prompted the issuance of Cum ex Apostolatus Officio in 1559. At that time Morone was on trial for heresy and Paul IV feared he could be elected on the event of his death.
While specific papal laws may not be mentioned in the body of the text or the footnotes to the constitution, they are included in the reference made in that third paragraph above, where Pope Pius XII declares: “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,” and this especially applies to VAS itself. Anything so added, subtracted, changed, corrected or dispensed from is null and void. Technically speaking, Traditionalists have summarily dispensed everyone from obeying or even acknowledging Cum ex… as an applicable document and have entirely dispensed themselves as well from obeying VAS. The meaning of this document and its penalties are perfectly clear and require no interpretation. Dispensation is a relaxation of the law in special circumstances (Donald Attwater’s A Catholic Dictionary).
Even when allowed, dispensations are always to be interpreted strictly. And here we see that Pope Pius XII says that during an interregnum, THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED! And if attempted, any changes and dispensations are null and void. To the charge that null and void in paragraphs one and three does not equal invalid, this word is used in paragraph one and implied by the use of null and void in paragraph three. Pope Leo XIII declared in Apostolica curae that “…to obtain orders nulliter means the same as by act null and void, that is invalid, as the very meaning of the word and as common parlance require.” Pope Alexander VIII, in condemning the Gallican articles, declared them “…null and void, invalid, useless” (DZ 1326). So goodbye epikeia, goodbye necessity. No wonder Traditionalists are scared to death to mention this law — it entirely destroys their position at every level.
VAS Consequences for Trad pseudo-clerics
- Is it clear from the above that VAS is an infallible, unquestionably binding papal document?
- Is it clear to the reader that Pope Pius XII fully intended to make null, void and invalid any attempt to usurp the jurisdiction he alone enjoyed in his lifetime during an interregnum?
- Does this not apply to all those Traditionalists claiming to be clerics who have usurped this jurisdiction since Pius XII’s death?
- Do Catholics not owe to such infallible decrees an unwavering and irrevocable assent, especially since VAS is the most solemn of documents?
The answer to all the above being a resounding “yes,” why are we still conceding even the possibility of any validity to Traditionalists when only a true pope could determine this? If a doubtful pope is no pope, then certainly a doubtful bishop is no bishop. It is true that doubt alone, under pain of mortal sin, is enough to cause any honest and fervent Catholic from ever resorting to Traditionalists. But is it enough to assure an unwavering and irrevocable assent to this and various other infallible papal decrees? Let us walk through this process and see how many roadblocks we encounter to make it possible that these men, even if they actually received orders (which they did not), could ever even validly function as bishops. If we fail to accept the clear meaning of Pope Pius XII’s words in words in VAS, what prevents us from questioning every other infallible document? It is not just the papal mandate that is forbidden here, but the change in and erasure of all the canon laws Traditionalists have effected by their relentless resort to the epikeia principle. Some of these are listed below.
According to Canon Laws in existence at the death of Pope Pius XII, those seeking ordination from a schismatic bishop commit communicatio in sacris. The penalty for communicatio in sacris is rendered in Can. 2314, with reference to Can. 1258. Rev. Ignatius Szal states in his Communication of Catholics with Schismatics, (Catholic Univ. Of America dissertation, 1948): “The reception of holy Orders from the hands of schismatic bishops has practically always been forbidden by the Church. Rarely has the Holy See ever considered it necessary to receive orders from a schismatic bishop. THE PROHIBITION TO RECEIVE HOLY ORDERS AT THE HANDS OF A SCHISMATIC BISHOP IS CONTAINED IN THE GENERAL PROHIBITION AGAINST ACTIVE RELIGIOUS COMMUNICATION AS EXPRESSED IN CAN. 1258 §1 [canon on communicatio in sacris].” And here we are talking about receiving such orders during the reign of a true pontiff, not during an interregnum.
Also from Rev. Szal: “On August 7, 1704, The Holy Office also stated that, “The decree which prohibited Catholics from being present at the Masses and prayers of schismatics APPLIED ALSO IN THOSE PLACES WHERE THERE WERE NO CATHOLIC PRIESTS and with reference to such prayers as contained nothing contrary to faith and the Catholic rite…On May 15, 1709, the Holy Office forbade Catholics to hear the confession of schismatics or to confess to them…Under no circumstances, not even in the case of necessity, according to a response of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith on Feb. 17, 1761, was it permissible for a Catholic to confess his sins to a schismatic priest in order to obtain absolution from him…” (This very same teaching on necessity is repeated by Pope Pius VI in Charitas, 1791; see below.) “On two other occasions, May 10, 1753, and April 17, 1758, the Holy See again forbade Catholics to participate in the masses of schismatics. In 1769, certain priests “were called to task for joining in the celebration of Mass with schismatics. The ignorance was inexcusable, and the act was a sacrilege which violated the true faith.” This and Szal’s quotes above are indications of God’s signified will, legitimate authority directing the people to avoid these men. These directives come from the office of Christ’s Vicars on earth and no Catholic may question or disobey them without incurring excommunication and losing their membership in the Church.
“For the right of ordaining bishops belongs only to the Apostolic See, as the Council of Trent declares; it cannot be assumed by any bishop or metropolitan without obliging Us to declare as both schismatic both those who ordain and those who are ordained thus invalidating their future actions.” (see Can. 2265 §1 [2-3]) We therefore severely forbid [these]… 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.” (Pope Pius VI, Charitas)
Those receiving these orders from schismatics not only are ipso facto excommunicated for heresy, they also incur infamy of law. Infamy of law invalidates the exercise of orders and participation in sacred functions. Revs. Woywod-Smith explain the effects of infamy of law under Can. 2294 §1: “A person who has incurred infamy of law is not only irregular, as declared by Can. 984 n. 5, but in addition, he is incapacitated from obtaining ecclesiastical benefices, pensions, offices and dignities, from performing legal ecclesiastical acts, from discharging any ecclesiastical right or duty, and must be restrained from the exercise of sacred functions of the ministry.” The authors continue: “The person who has incurred…an infamy of law…cannot validly obtain ecclesiastical benefices, pensions, offices and dignities, nor can he validly exercise the rights connected with the same, nor perform a valid, legal ecclesiastical act.” Canon 2295 states: “Infamy of law ceases only on dispensation granted by the Apostolic See.” So not only does VAS make null and void all ecclesiastical acts undertaken during an interregnum, Canon Law, which cannot be changed or dispensed from during an interregnum declares all jurisdictional acts of these men illegal and invalid.
Under the heading “Jurisdictional rights and prerogatives of the pope” in the Catholic Encyclopedia online, please read the additional matters that only a pope can decide at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12260a.htm. This includes the grant of the papal mandate, the erection of dioceses, the transfer of bishops from one diocese to the other as well as other rights and prerogatives. Both Lefebvre and Thuc resigned their appointments by Pope Pius XII and accepted appointments from John 23 and Paul 6, one of many of their acts of communicatio in sacris. Once they incurred infamy, under the canon above, they were capable only of conveying questionably valid orders that could never be exercised. And it is now clear that in consecrating bishops, they could not act validly at all. Those maintaining these men validly ordained and consecrated Traditionalists are dispensing themselves from Canon Law, on many different levels, and as VAS proclaims, such dispensation, correction, or relaxation of a law in special circumstances, is null and void.
But aren’t schismatic ordinations and consecrations valid?
Ordinarily, yes, when a canonically elected pope reigns. “Clement VIII, in his instruction Sanctissimus of August 31, 1595, stated that those who had received ordination at the hands 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. In this he repeated the doctrine of the glossators. Benedict XIV, in the Constitution Etsi pastoralis, of May 26, 1742, confirmed this doctrine of Clement VIII.” (The Communication of Catholics with Schismatics, Rev. Ignatius Szal, A.B., J.C.L.; Catholic University of America Canon Law dissertation, 1948). But the pope teaches in VAS that while they are valid, all jurisdictional acts emanating from them are null and void during an interregnum simply because he is not there to review and approve the men being consecrated; they must wait for the new pope to be elected. Consecrations in any other time period other than an interregnum would be presumably valid in themselves but useless because they cannot be validly exercised. And without that approval, these men possess no offices which allow them to teach or preach, erect seminaries (with papal approval) and admit candidates for the priesthood. Lefebvre and Thuc accepted their “offices” from a lay authority, a usurper occupying the Holy See (and this is even worse than a lay authority) who had no power to grant such an office. As such, under Can. 147 they became the equivalent of vitandus, which further complicates their situation (Can. 147, Canon Law Digest, Vol. 3; AAS 42-601 and 42-195).
Does the pope have the right to declare that these orders are not valid? If the pope can decide Anglican orders were invalid, and if he can decide particular cases that are presented to him, of course he can. He has the fullness of apostolic jurisdiction. Furthermore, 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.” As Donald Attwater explains in his 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.”
Doesn’t it sound like Pius XII is placing a diriment impediment to Orders here considering the wording of VAS? And that these orders would be null and void if even attempted? As in Holy Scripture, Fr. Felix Sarda says in his Liberalism is a Sin, so with papal documents; they are to be taken literally unless indicated otherwise by the very sense of the statement. In their Dictionary of Dogmatic Theology, (1951), Parente, Piolanti and Garofalo, under hierarchy write: “Jurisdiction originates through canonical mission…and the valid use of orders, IN MOST CASES, cannot be prevented, while jurisdiction is revocable.” Parente is most likely referring here to Can. 104, the effects of which are explained in the summary below. And this canon finally solves the riddle of how Traditionalist pseudo-clergy were entirely incapable of receiving Orders.
So please, Traditionalist hypocrites, do not pretend that you are the heirs of the Church left to us by Pope Pius XII. This is an outrageous lie, and the infallible words of VAS, Mystici Corporis, Ad Sinarum gentum and Humani generis — which teaches that encyclical letters entered into the Acta Apostolica Sedis are binding on Catholics for belief — prove this. Nor can you presume to correct, dispense yourselves from or interpret Canon Law, which VAS forbids. You may be heirs to the hidden Avignon “papacy,” to the Coptic “papacy” of the Eastern Orthodox, to a shadowy, false papacy yet to be established, but NOT heirs to the papacy established on earth by Jesus Christ, founded on St. Peter the Rock. This you have never been and will never be.
It doesn’t require a PhD to determine that what has been done here is nothing short of criminal and worthy of hell. There was never any intention by Traditionalists to follow the law or try to restore the Church once the Novus Ordo Missae was introduced. There was every intention to confuse the faithful, misinform them, pacify them with what they wanted and desired, fleece them, and when anyone dared question the operators, they moved on to the next round of unsuspecting suckers recently leaving the Novus Ordo or other sects.
By ignoring Cum ex… and VAS, also the teachings of St. Robert Bellarmine regarding a doubtful pope, they were able to shift the focus to the “loss of the Mass,” rallying the faithful behind the secondary consequences, not the actual cause of the problem. A simple survey of Scripture and saintly literature proves that the Mass could end only with the coming of Antichrist. Antichrist proper could only reign unopposed; a king reigning during an interregnum. Had John 23 and Paul 6 been actively opposed and a true pope elected, they would have gone down in history as antichrists, not Paul 6 as THE Antichrist.
And that was the plan. Suppress, misdirect, misinform, omit, ignore, distract, misinterpret — they had it all down to a “T.” Delay at all costs until it is too late to do anything. Circulate idiot theories such as material/formal and recognize and resist, fancy slogans for the intellectually lazy, (according to the scholastic theologian A.C. Cotter, S.J.). Isn’t this what has happened to our country as well? Is there any doubt that the ultimate source of this is all the same? How could VAS, or Cum ex… for that matter, possibly mean anything other than what it obviously states?
Pope Pius XII saw this coming. He pulled out all the stops because he feared that few faithful bishops were left and may even have had doubts about his own cardinals. In issuing Mystici Corporis in 1943, he resolved an issue that had been circulating since the Council of Constance. The Catholic Encyclopedia reports: “[Gallicanist] principles even appeared at the Council of Trent, where the ambassadors, theologians, and bishops of France repeatedly championed them, notably when the questions for decision were as to whether episcopal jurisdiction comes immediately from God or through the pope…” (article on Gallicanism).
If this heresy was not still a threat, then why did Pope Pius XII address it at all, and why did he keep addressing it? Why, in 1954, after calling together a committee to call an ecumenical council, did he suddenly decide to abandon it? Was it not because of the very warning Pope Pius XI received from Cardinal Billot when he also proposed to call a council in 1923? “As early as May 23, 1923, Pope Pius XI had wanted to convoke an Ecumenical Council to condemn the modern errors of Communism and Modernism.
The Cardinals at that time voiced strong opposition to the idea, stating that so many bishops had been imbued with Modernist and liberal ideas that such a Council would do more harm to the Church than good. Cardinal Billot said: ‘The worst enemies of the Church, the Modernists… are already getting ready… to bring forth a revolution in the Church, like that of 1789 [in France].’ Due to the dangers involved, Pope Pius XI gave up on the idea of an ecumenical council” (Fr. R. Dulac, Episcopal Collegiality of The Second Vatican Council, (French publ.), pgs. 9-10).
Frere Michel reports in his The Whole Truth About Fatima, Vol. III that sharp divisions wracked the preparatory commission for a council under Pope Pius XII, with the progressives making extensive inroads (pgs. 300-301). The entire process was effectively paralyzed by the impasse posed by the progressives. Pope Pius XII abandoned the idea of the council saying he was too old to see it through, although, Frere Michel reports from Civilta Cattolica, “…He did so against his better judgment.” Already Pope Pius XII was surrounded, and he knew it. In 1952 he became so ill it would have been impossible for him to have seen a council through. The enemy was already within the gate, and they were gunning for him. After a near-death experience and a vision of Christ in 1954, Pius XII all but shut down Holy Office operations. In a most telling move, he neglected to appoint a cardinal camerlengo to preside at the conclave following his death. In his will, he left all his writings to those who might benefit from them.
Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis is among them. It is the padlock on the Church’s door keeping everything inside unmolested, just as it was when he left us. Let the heathen rage, but that padlock will not be broken. It stands as a testimony to who and what Pope Pius XII was, and his determination to forever keep whole and intact the Deposit of Faith he was chosen to guard.
Summation of Principles Stated Above
- VAS is an unquestionably infallible document compiled from the teachings and practices of the Church throughout the centuries and therefore represents the sum total of all Her laws regarding papal election and what is permitted and prohibited during an interregnum.
- This law specifically governs us in the absence of a canonically elected Roman Pontiff, and as St. Robert Bellarmine teaches, a doubtful pope is no pope.
- The import of VAS is clear. It differs little from the election law issued by Pope St. Pius X, and that primarily a) in the number of votes required to validly elect and b) Pope Pius XII’s addition to paragraph three that leaves no doubt about its infallibility.
- The summary of this constitution given by the canonists Woywod-Smith and Bouscaren-Ellis is what has been used by this author as the basis for this article and others previously published.
- If Traditionalists truly acknowledge Pope Pius XII as the last pope of the Catholic Church they are bound to obey unequivocally all the teachings of this infallible constitution.
- This means accepting all papal teachings and Canon Laws of the Church, as stated and understood prior to the death of Pope Pius XII, which VAS forbids anyone to correct, change, or dispense from, in whole or in part.
- According to the existing Canon Laws of the Church, which must be upheld precisely as they exist; and in keeping with the long-held conviction by Traditionalists that the Novus Ordo church is not the CATHOLIC Church, Marcel Lefebvre and Peter Martin Ngo dinh Thuc, by their own admission, committed communicatio in sacris by publicly professing themselves as members of that non-Catholic church and participating in its religious activities.
- As a result, they incurred ipso facto excommunication for heresy/schism, deposition from any offices they held and infamy of law, invalidating any future acts involving the Sacraments.
- Because the granting of the papal mandate is an act of papal jurisdiction, it is reserved to the pope alone. Any attempt to consecrate bishops without this grant is null, void and invalid.
- The necessity of the papal mandate for valid consecration is a conditio sine qua non under Can. 104, which reads: “Error annuls an action, when the error concerns the substance of the action or amounts to a conditio sine qua non — that is to say, if the action would not have been done except for the error; otherwise the action is valid, unless the law states otherwise…” (Can. 104). And VAS, also Can. 2445, most clearly leave no doubt in this matter.
- In this case Pope Pius XII has made the possession of the papal mandate a conditio sine qua non and declared those violating the law (the cardinals presumably) incapable of acting.
- “No ignorance of invalidating or disqualifying laws excuses from their observance; namely no ignorance of the aforementioned laws can make acts valid which they have rendered invalid nor can it make persons capable of acting whom they have declared incapacitated from acting. Nor can subjects be excused from the observance of these laws, for the matter is in no way dependent on the will of the agent but on the contrary depends entirely.” Abp. Amleto Cicognani, Canon Law, 1935, Can. 16).
- In order to be considered a Catholic adhering only to the Church as She existed until the death of Pope Pius XII, all must reject ALL Traditionalist pseudo-clergy and abide solely by Church law and teaching as VAS commands.
© Copyright 2022, T. Stanfill Benns (All emphasis within quotes is the author’s.)