+St. Catherine of Siena+

Prayer Society Intentions for May, Month of the Blessed Virgin Mary

“Oh great Queen of Heaven, Bride of the Holy Ghost, do thou cover me with the mantle of thy protection.” (The Raccolta)

First Friday and Saturday this week

We keep receiving correspondence from readers trying to answer those STILL inquiring about topics that have been explained in detail now for decades, but which need to be re-addressed because those new to LibTrad groups continue to believe the errors taught by their pseudo-clergy. We wrote last week that no one ordained or consecrated after Oct. 9, 1958,  could ever be considered valid, and therefore nothing they teach can possibly be believed as coming from the Church. It is as one online commentator put it: “The real Church is a visible institution governed by laws; the sedevacantist “church” is an invisible idea governed by circular arguments.” And that is all they can offer.

LibTrads claim that by invoking epikeia they can bypass the necessity for jurisdiction — but wait. They FIRST must prove they even have a right to jurisdiction, i.e., that they were validly ordained or consecrated and validly appointed by proper ecclesiastical authority. This is a prime example of circular argument – presuming that which has yet to be proved. For they can scarcely claim any right to minister to the faithful if they are not even members of the clergy: they must prove they were validly ordained and consecrated and all the evidence presented on this site — mainly in way of Pope Pius XII’s Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis, (VAS) — proves they are not. And so LibTrads falsely accuse those of drawing attention to these proofs of privately interpreting the laws and teaching s of the Church. Once again, they act as though this has been categorically established by them according to the Church’s time-honored method of Scholasticism, when no such proofs have ever been produced.

Yet what LibTrads REALLY object to is not the fact that papal teachings and canon law have been “privately interpreted” by others, but that they have been outed by those quoting approved authors writing prior to the death of Pope Pius XII who do not agree with THEIR misinterpretation of the canons and papal teaching. They condemn those objecting to their violation of these laws and teachings for demanding they FOLLOW what the Church taught pre-1959. They are the ones interpreting canon law and papal teaching, not those citing these sources and demanding that they proceed according to the approved interpretations.

Therefore, we do not listen to or accept what comes out of the mouth of these LibTrads and their pseudo-clergy.  We obey the teachings of the Roman Pontiffs, the Ecumenical Councils and the approved theologians and canonists loyal to the magisterium. Even though the “illicit only” sects quote selected texts from approved theologians to justify their errors, they fail to inform readers of the full scope of what is documented in these sources and the inevitable conclusions that must be drawn from them. This of course results in readers arriving at false conclusions and creates much confusion. For that reason we will examine the comprehensive teachings of these authors on epikeia and their bearing on VAS, to dispel any false notions about this principle.

Fr. Riley on epikeia

The “illicit only” group quotes the author below but does not make any distinctions in his work nor explain the full meaning of what he is saying. To do this one must examine the definitions, citations and final conclusions of the authors and then learn what led them to these conclusions. We quote The History, Nature, and Use of Epikeia in Moral Theology, by Father Lawrence Joseph Riley, Copyright 1948, (The Catholic University of America Press, INC.  Imprimatur: + Richardus Jacobus Cushing.  D.D.):

Epikeia may be defined as follows: “A CORRECTION OR EMENDATION of a law which in its expression is deficient by reason of its universality; a correction made by a subject who deviates from the clear words of the law, basing his action upon the presumption, at least probable, that the legislator intended not to include in his law the case at hand.(Presumption is defined by canonists as a “probable conjecture about an uncertain thing.”)

— It may be used only with the greatest discretion; in the internal forum it may be applied to affirmative precepts and to negative precepts (ecclesiastical and civil), but very infrequently with regard to affirmative precepts, because the latter, binding semper but not pro semper, are more susceptible of interpretation than of epikeia.

— Epikeia is not to be identified with interpretation, dispensation, presumed permission, excusing cause, or popular acceptance of human law.

— Epikeia is a lawful institute of Moral Theology, based ultimately on the intention of the legislator to exclude from his law a particular case, and hence the presumed intention of the legislator is of the highest import in regard to epikeia.

— The intention of the legislator not to include a particular case in his law is not a merely interpretative intention, but exists in the mind of the legislator at least virtually though perhaps only implicitly… In a case where the evidence regarding this presumed intention of the legislator is so unsubstantial that the subject cannot even hesitatingly assent that he is free, epikeia may not be used…

Epikeia may not be applied to precepts of the natural law, nor to precepts of the divine positive law of the New Testament. (“Thou art Peter…whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth.”)

— It seems probable that the use of epikeia was not permissible in reference to precepts of the divine positive law of the Old Testament.

— Human invalidating laws sometimes cease to bind; but epikeia may not be applied to human invalidating laws, and VAS is an invalidating law.  (End of Riley quotes.)

Abp. Amleto Cicognani states that epikeia is not to be applied to the interpretation of the law itself, but rather the mind of the lawgiver, in this case Pope Pius XII. LibTrads, however, entirely overlook this important fact.

Invalidating laws and who can rightly exercise epikeia

The purpose of invalidating and incapacitating laws are better explained by the following: A prohibitory law of its very nature admits the excuse of ignorance or moral incapacity and on this basis will frequently cease in its cogent force. Not so an invalidating law. Invalidation is not premised on an obligation but is derived from the WILL OF THE LEGISLATOR who seeks to protect the common good of society and wishes to safeguard it more compellingly FROM FRAUD, INJURY AND DANGER. THE INVIOLABLE OBSERVANCE OF INVALIDATING LAWS IS CONSTANTLY URGENT BECAUSE THEIR TRANSGRESSION PRESENTS A FAR GRAVER DANGER TO SOCIETY ITSELF” (Doubt in Canon Law, Rev. Roger Viau, S.T.L, J.C.L., 1954, pg. 69; Catholic University of America dissertation).

Abp. Amleto Cicognani, Revs. Bouscaren-Ellis, Woywod-Smith, Francis Miaskiewicz, Raymond Kearney, McHugh and Callan — all these canonists and theologians warn of the great caution that must be used in applying epikeia, and the many dangers of abuse in attempting this application. So this easily amounts to a common opinion, if not a unanimous one. Revs. Bouscaren-Ellis also note that: “The general and habitual interpretation of a law contrary to its clear terms is not epikeia, but an evident abuse,” (Canon Law: A Text and Commentary, 1946, pgs. 33-34). The above authors agree it is to be used only in specific cases, not generally. And yet this is what LibTrads have consistently done.

Riley comments: “[Pope Benedict XIV] cautions that dispensations from a papal law, granted without urgent and just cause by an inferior authority resorting to the use of epikeia, are illicit and invalid (p. 79). … It should be noted that in each of the above-cited passages the implication is that the mitigation of the rigor of the law is made by some ecclesiastical authority. Insofar as can be ascertained, nowhere does the Pope mention epikeia as exercised by a private subject of the law” (p. 96). As we read in last week’s blog, none of the LibTrads possess ANY authority. Given what Pope Benedict XIV says, even in matters NOT involving invalidating and incapacitating laws, even an unquestionably valid cleric possessing the usual authority would not be able to use epikeia to challenge a papal law. If you are upholding the Catholic Church as She existed prior to the death of Pope Pius XII, wouldn’t it only be logical to consult the best possible expert available during that time period, educated in some of the Church’s finest institutions? So why were they not able to locate, study and follow Rev. Riley’s work and obey Pope Benedict XIV, given the utmost seriousness of the situation?

Epikeia and probable opinions

 Skipping the issue of sacramental validity entirely, LibTrads rushed to use epikeia as a substitute for jurisdiction. Now some are desperately attempting to preserve their claim to validity by resorting to epikeia to dismiss Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis, but they are devoid of any proofs. Their ignorance and gross negligence in these matters is just one indicator of their true orientation and motives. Traditionalists did not even follow the basic rules that govern the application of epikeiabefore establishing their very existence on this shaky principle. They went directly to the laws on the very things that epikeia could never be applied to — the Sacraments. Had they truly understood the teachings of the Catholic Church on the nature and administration of the Sacraments, had they received any true education in the places they dubbed as “seminaries,” they would have known.

Again. Rev. Riley’s very definition of epikeia above tells those praying at home all they need to know about LibTrads’ application of this principle to the Sacraments. Epikeia is “A CORRECTION OR EMENDATION of a law which in its expression is deficient by reason of its universality; a correction made by a subject who deviates from the clear words of the law, basing his action upon the presumption, AT LEAST PROBABLE, that the legislator intended not to include in his law the case at hand. (Presumption is defined by canonists as a “probable conjecture about an uncertain thing.”) The use of epikeia itself is nearly always the product of a probable opinion, as the entire bulk of Rev. Riley’s work shows. And the very reason we pray at home is because the Church forbids the use of probable opinions when conferring the Sacraments. The answer should have been clear. But it was not clear because they insisted on denying the very essence of Christ’s constitution of the Church with Peter as its indispensable head. The only possible way the Church could have been rebuilt was by retracing Christ’s own steps and starting at the beginning, by restoring a head to the Church.

Of course this was never their intent. But had they been sincere in truly glorifying God and working to obey His will to save souls, this would have been their first recourse: to restore the papacy, because then the Mass would logically have followed. There was a canon that covered this situation and could have led them to Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis. It at least would have posed the question: IS there a law already governing this affair?

Canon Law and the invocation of epikeia

We read from Canon 20:

“If there is no explicit provision concerning some affair either in the general or in the particular law a norm of action is to be taken from:

(a) laws given in similar cases,

(b) from the general principles of Canon Law based on equity,

(c) from the methods and practices of the Roman Court [Curia] or from the

(d) common and constant teaching of approved canonists.” Because equity is included in (b), it seems Traditionalists, while never mentioning Can. 20 specifically, at least referred to it implicitly. (And LibTrads entirely ignore the canon that follows, which states: “Laws made for the purpose of safeguarding the public against a common danger bind even though in a particular case there is no danger.”)

(1) To invoke this law, LibTrads had to entirely ignore the fact that an “explicit provision” in this affair  already existed in a general law. In his work Canon Law, Abp. Amleto Cicognani states: “If there is a law covering the case, this rule [Can. 20] is not to be applied according to the meaning of Can. 18…” (p. 621). This, then, immediately disqualified any appeal to Can. 20. The law we are referring to happens to be an infallible law that has direct bearing on what can and cannot be done during an interregnum. It is Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis, (VAS), Pope Pius XII’s 1945 papal election law. This constitution is a rewrite of the codification of all election laws enacted by Pope St. Pius X. Several things would have been clarified by consulting this one law. First of all, in the very first paragraph, the pope teaches that when a pope dies, nothing can be done by the College of Cardinals until a new pope is elected. If the Cardinals (in reality only bishops) attempt to usurp any act of papal jurisdiction, that attempt is null and void. This would include the appointment of bishops and the establishment of dioceses, as well as other acts.

Secondly, in paragraph two, VAS reads: “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.” We refer once again to Rev. Lawrence Riley’s definition of epikeia above. Obviously Pope Pius XII did not wish VAS to be tampered with in any way, clearly showing his mind in the matter for he states: “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.” This is an undeniable indication of an infallible document. So right off the bat, there is no possible way epikeia could be used to correct VAS, which forbids any changes whatsoever to this constitution. This also rules out the use of equity in (b) above, since in a conflict of law, the higher law prevails. And epikeia is not even a law; it is only a principle which may be applied to law in certain cases.

(2) There is also a question of using epikeia to correct or interpret penalties or even abolish them, in the case of Traditionalists.  Canon 20 rules that it cannot apply to penalties, and VAS teaches there will be no changes to canon laws during an interregnum. “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” (VAS, para. 3).

(3) No attempt has ever been made to follow the remaining guidelines of this canon as required in order to justify the use of epikeia. The reasons why seem clear enough: Traditionalists were afraid that someone would point to the fact they could not invoke it at all, since it amounted to correcting the law and interpreting penalties.

Determining the intention of the lawgiver

But there is more. In Rev. Riley’s conclusions listed above, we see that the presumed intention of the legislator, to exclude from his law a particular case, is of the highest import in regard to epikeia. And there was a process that needed to be followed here in order to determine what exactly the mind of Pope Pius XII was even before validly ordained Traditionalists could proceed to exercise their orders. “Bp.” Robert McKenna and Fr. Noel Barbara, among others —in various letters and publications — admit that they “presume” Pope Pius XII would have wished Lefebvre and Thuc to consecrate bishops for the good of the Church and the faithful. No proof whatsoever is presented to support this bold presumption. Guerard des Lauriers, supposedly a trained theologian, could waste time confabulating his material-formal nonsense, but could not be bothered to justify his own “consecration” by a mental incompetent, even though it is reported in the German publication Einsicht that he hesitated because a papal mandate could not be obtained! And Pope Pius XII would have wanted this?!! Or orders rendered by Lefebvre, a suspected Freemason himself, whose own ordination and consecration was suspect?

No proof was forthcoming because it did not exist, and these men had to know that, if they had any knowledge at all of what was taught in Pius XII’s papal encyclicals. Not to mention the censures levied for violation of canon laws regarding failure to seek orders from competent authority and consecration without the papal mandate.  Notice Riley says above that at LEAST a probable opinion must exist regarding the legislator’s intent and that means five or more examples from approved authors/reliable documents verifying the (at least) implicit permission to proceed. These opinions do not exist because epikeia was never intended to be applied to invalidating and incapacitating laws. The word incapacitated means “deprived of capacity or natural power : made incapable of or unfit for normal functioning.” If that deprivation is infallibly issued by a sitting pope, it is unquestionably binding.

But given the weight, expressed intent, invalidating clauses and infallible nature of VAS, there can be NO DOUBT that such an intent to allow such things to take place during an interregnum is lacking. The Pope is clear; during an interregnum, all stands just as it did upon the Pope’s death and if anyone dares to make innovations, the attempt is null, void and invalid. As Rev. Roger Viau explains above, no legislator could ever wish to revoke a law crafted specifically to protect “the common good of society…  to safeguard it more compellingly FROM FRAUD, INJURY AND DANGER. THE INVIOLABLE OBSERVANCE OF INVALIDATING LAWS IS CONSTANTLY URGENT BECAUSE THEIR TRANSGRESSION PRESENTS A FAR GRAVER DANGER TO SOCIETY ITSELF. ” What everyone is missing here is that in all truth, this law was first enacted by Pope St. Pius X Dec. 25, 1904 (Vacante Sede Apostolica) when surely this saintly pope had already witnessed the inroads of Modernism and realized its grave danger to the Church. Not only did he then set out to issue a new election law, but as Pope Pius XII explained in the preamble to VAS, with “judicious advice” he summarized and updated all previous election laws, to better suit current conditions.  In The Catholic Encyclopedia Dictionary, 1941,we read:  “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 Pius XII writes in the VAS preamble: “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 two notable things added in VAS by Pope Pius XII was the two-thirds PLUS ONE vote, to exclude candidates from voting for themselves and also the addition, at the end of paragraph three, of the following sentence, regarding any usurpation of papal jurisdiction or changes in papal or canon law: “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.”

As noted elsewhere, interregnums were intended to last for only just under a month. But the popes both knew that the intent of the Modernists was to hijack the Church. It appears that they both decided that should an attempt be made to delay the election then the hierarchy, whose duty it was to elect, could live with the consequences — everything would be suspended until reviewed by the future pope. It was a brilliant move, made by saintly geniuses sworn to do everything necessary to preserve and protect the Divine Deposit — and they did.

Nothing declares more forcefully than VAS that without the pope there can be NO CHURCH, as Pope Pius IX taught. Issued as it was two years AFTER Mystici Corporis Christi proclaimed that the bishops did not receive their powers from Christ directly, but only through the Roman Pontiff, it based the prohibitions made on the teachings of Mystici Corporis and expanded papal power accordingly — and this is why LibTrads hate VAS. Instead of whining about the loss of Mass and Sacraments, Catholics should be on their knees thanking God that these Pope St. Pius  and Pope Pius XII had the faith and the foresight to see that Christ’s promise remained intact — that the gates of hell would never prevail against the Church founded on the rock that was St. Peter. And LibTrads should never forget this solemn warning, reiterated by Henry Cardinal Manning in his works on the papacy:

Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken, but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder” (Matt. 21:44).

Print Friendly, PDF & Email