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Bishop Sanborn has a sermon about Pope Saint Pius X and his devotion to souls, his purity of doctrine, and his condemnation of Modernism.

Canon Law and Common Sense

December 20th, 2017 by Vigilo

Original Post on Traditional Mass

Canon Law and Common Sense

Rev. Anthony Cekada

Why Traditional Catholics are Not Outlaws

TYPICAL DIOCESE these days is the scene of all sorts of dangerous craziness. Priests attack defined Catholic teachings on faith and morals. Nuns push for women’s ordination. Masses are celebrated featuring puppets, balloons, clowns and dance. The nearly-empty seminary and nominally-Catholic university are hotbeds of religious subversion.

Every once and a while, however, the men responsible for this state of affairs take time out. The bishop or some diocesan official will assume a serious mien and issue a solemn warning: There is a chapel in our diocese, he says, where a priest offers the traditional Latin Mass. This is illicit and violates canon law, so beware!

On the flip side of the same coin, there have always been a few people in the traditional movement who vehemently oppose the New Mass and Vatican II, but who nevertheless condemn all (or most) traditional Catholic priests or chapels as “illicit” or “against canon law.”

Typically, some layman with an ax to grind will get hold of an English paraphrase of the Code of Canon Law (the official text exists only in Latin), and, like a Protestant handling scripture, will treat his discovery as a handy source for “proof-texts” he can use to dismiss everyone else in the traditional movement as “non-Catholic.” He has no idea that, as with scripture, there are authoritative principles and rules which must be followed for applying the particulars of the Code. And as the would-be lay canon lawyer circulates his articles condemning everyone else for not adhering literally to the canons, it never occurs to him that his own project is equally “illicit” — for his writings do not bear the official Imprimatur required by Canon 1385.

In either case — statements from the modernist establishment or polemics from self-styled lay canonists — Catholics who go to a traditional Mass sometimes find such accusations troubling. Good Catholics, we know, should try to obey the law. Is what we do really against canon law, or somehow illicit, and therefore wrong?

Common sense tells us that the answer is no. Sacrilege and doctrinal error abound. It hardly seems reasonable that the thousands of rules intended for ordinary times in the Church would all still apply in face of such an extraordinary situation.

Most laymen in the traditional movement instinctively adopt this common-sense approach. Without realizing it, they’ve put into practice a very common-sense principle that Catholic canonists (canon law experts) have always used for applying canon law: the principle of equity.

Equity (one could also call it “fairness”) recognizes that following the letter of a church law can, in certain extraordinary situations, be both harmful and wrong. Traditional Catholics who understand how equity is applied will be well prepared to explain why their course of action is proper.

Here we will consider:

(1) The purpose of church law, and the principle of equity.

(2) How equity applies to the situation of traditional Catholic priests and chapels.


To apply church laws intelligently, one must first understand the fundamental principles. Here are a few important considerations.

A. The Common Good

Canon law manuals usually begin with St. Thomas Aquinas’s classic general definition of law: “an ordinance of reason for the common good promulgated by the person who has care of the community.”

Theologians divide law into two broad categories:

(1) Divine law. This in turn is divided into the eternal law (God’s reason and will), the natural law (the knowledge of good and evil written on every man’s heart), and the divine-positive law (the Old and New Testaments).

(2) Human law, which is divided into ecclesiastical law and civil law.

Church law, therefore, falls under the heading of human law.

By definition all law is directed toward the common good. In the case of ecclesiastical law, says the theologian Merkelbach, the specific “common good” the Church intends is “the worship of God and the supernatural sanctification of men.”1 This is the overall aim or goal of all the Church’s laws.

When discussing the general principles of church law, moreover, all the great Catholic moral theologians and canonists stress that specific laws are supposed to work justice — not just legal justice (strict conformity to the letter of the law), but natural justice (what we truly have a moral right to).

The great canonist Cicognani (later a Cardinal) therefore says that applying the law is “the art of all that is good and equitable.” This art, he says, “ought to consist in a correction of the strict letter of law that works an injury, or when a positive human law is not in harmony with the principles of natural justice, or again when it is in itself so deficient that what is legally right becomes morally wrong.”2

Like other authors, Cicognani points out a problem: “A human lawgiver is never able to foresee all the individual cases to which a law will be applied. Consequently, a law, though just in general, may, taken literally, lead in some unforeseen cases to results which agree neither with the intent of the lawgiver nor with natural justice, but rather contravene them. In such cases the law must be expounded not according to its wording but according to the intent of the lawgiver and according to the principles of natural justice.”3

B. Equity: Its Necessity

This brings us to a principle of singular importance for applying canon law nowadays: equity.

Equity (sometimes also called epikeia or epiky) is typically defined as follows: “The benign application of the law according to what is good and equitable, which decides that the lawgiver does not intend that, because of exceptional circumstances, some particular case be included under his general law.”4 Others like the Dominican canonist and moral theologian Prmmer add that equity is an interpretation of the mind of the lawgiver, “who is presumed to be unwilling to bind his subjects in extraordinary cases where the observance of his law would cause injury or impose too severe a burden.”5

The reason theologians allow equity to be used harks back to our definition of law: an ordinance of reason for the common good. Indeed, theologians say that neglecting to apply equity when the common good is at stake is morally wrong. A person subject to the law may in certain cases, says Merkelbach, “act outside the letter of the law, to wit, when the letter of the law would be harmful to the common good.… Therefore in a case where the observance of the law would be harmful to the common good, it should not be obeyed.”6 This is also the teaching of St. Thomas, who says: “In certain cases to follow [a law] is against the equality of justice and against the common good which the law intends.… In such cases it is bad to follow the law; it is good to set aside its letter and follow the dictates of justice and the common good.”7

Nor does one who applies equity violate the law. On the contrary, he “acts licitly.”8 Such an application of law “is legal, that is lawful, although it disagree with the strict letter of the law.”9

Cicognani observes: “If equity among the pagans was not unimportant… much more ought equity to obtain in ecclesiastical discipline, in canon law, and in the Church. For the Church, apart from the fact that she is a mother, merciful, holy, and indulgent, has as her end the salvation of souls, the supreme law, which frequently requires the correction of certain other laws.”10

Cicognani here has alluded to an old adage in church law: Salus animarum suprema lex — the salvation of souls is the supreme law. It is divine law — God’s will and goal for us — that souls be saved.

What if a lower type of law sometime conflicts with a divine law? “The greater obligation prevails,” say the moralists McHugh and Callan, “and the lesser obligation disappears.”11

Equity, finally, is not license to set aside all church laws. While it seeks to serve justice, it is also related to prudence — selecting and putting into practice means appropriate to achieving some good end, or avoiding some evil. Specifically it is related to a potential part of prudence called the sense of exception (or gnom) which controls our proper application of rules and our appeal to higher principles, should it become necessary to set a rule aside.12

C.  Summary of Principles

We’ll sum up the principles discussed so far:

  • The goal of all law is to promote the common good.
  • Canon law falls under the heading of human law.
  • The common good the Church intends for canon law is “the worship of God and the supernatural sanctification of men.”
  • A specific human law may be just in general, but taken literally in circumstances unforeseen by the lawgiver may in fact contravene either natural justice or what the lawgiver intended.
  • In such a case one may apply equity — deciding that, because of the harm which would result, the lawgiver didn’t intend a particular case to be included under his general law.
  • In certain circumstances where harm to the common good would result from a literal application of a law, it is bad to follow the law.
  • Applying equity is licit or lawful.
  • The salvation of souls is the supreme law.
  • When a lower law conflicts with the divine law, the obligation to observe the lower law disappears.
  • The application of equity to a law must be controlled by prudence.


We now turn to apply these principles to the status of traditional Catholics vis-a-vis the Code of Canon Law.

Our Lord wills that we be saved, and He instituted the seven sacraments as the principal means for us to sanctify ourselves and obtain salvation. In virtue of the divine law, therefore, Catholics have a right to the sacraments.

The human law of the Church (canon law) protects that fundamental right, and at the same time places certain restrictions on how it can be exercised. (To confer sacraments legally in a diocese, for instance, the Code requires that a priest obtain faculties from the bishop.) The legislator promulgated all these restrictions, and indeed the whole Code, on the assumption that a normal situation obtained throughout the Church.

The situation for Catholics since the Second Vatican Council can hardly be termed normal. By Vatican decree, a new Mass, protestantized and stripped of sacredness, has been introduced into our parish churches, together with the officially-sanctioned and utterly sacrilegious practice of Communion in the hand. Bishops and pastors — the men who under the Code would have possessed the power to grant other priests faculties to confer sacraments — tacitly condone or explicitly promote doctrines which contradict the Catholic faith.

If in the face of this disaster you insist that equity does not apply and that all the Code’s provisions on sacramental faculties still bind, you arrive at one of two practical alternatives:

(A) Traditional Catholics must approach the Novus Ordo establishment to obtain faculties for sacraments; or

(B) Because traditional Catholics cannot obtain the faculties and permissions required by canon law, they must henceforth forego receiving any sacraments, apart from baptism conferred in proximate danger of death.

A. Faculties from Modernists

As regards the first alternative, it is hardly reasonable to imagine that we Catholics who have a right by divine law to Catholic sacraments and Catholic teaching would have an obligation by canon law to request permission for these things from the very men who took them away in the first place.

The same Code of Canon Law that lays down requirements for granting faculties also protects Catholics from these wolves in sheep’s clothing. Church officials who have manifestly defected from the Catholic faith lose not only all jurisdiction in the Catholic Church (c. 188.4), but even their membership in it.

These points have been amply discussed in other articles and need not detain us here. Another old adage, however, is to the point: Nemo dat quod non habet — No one gives what he himself does not possess.

B.  No Sacraments at All

The self-appointed lay canonists, on the other hand, propose the general principle that to confer sacraments without the requisite conditions and faculties foreseen by the Code is “illicit” and always impermissible. But he who applies this principle with complete consistency ends up with no sacraments at all.

The lay writers do not realize this, of course, because they don’t know enough about the particulars of the canons dealing with the sacraments. They believe that Baptism, and (maybe) Matrimony would somehow still be “licit” under their interpretation of the Code. They’re wrong.

Take Baptism, for instance. To administer it validly (i.e., so that it “works”), all you need is someone to pour the water and recite the essential form. But if you insist on meeting each and every legal requirement of the Code for a sacrament, here is what confronts you:

  • Canon 755.1 prescribes that, except in danger of death, baptism must always be conferred solemnly (i.e., with the anointings and other prescribed rites).
  • The Code reserves the right to perform solemn baptism to the canonical pastor, his delegate or the Ordinary (c. 738.1), although in case of necessity, the Ordinary’s permission may be presumed.
  • The priest, in any case, must use solemnly blessed baptismal water (containing the oils blessed on Holy Thursday by the Ordinary) for a solemn baptism (c. 757.1).
  • It is “permitted” to confer private baptism (i.e., using just the water and the essential form), but only in danger of death (c. 759.1).
  • Except in the case of adult converts being baptized conditionally, the Ordinary is forbidden to permit private baptism outside of danger of death (c. 759.2).

Now in terms of the foregoing, let us apply the principle the lay “experts” want us to follow in our current situation (“nothing illicit!”), and watch the sacrament of Baptism disappear:

  • It is illicit to confer a solemn baptism, since there is no canonical pastor to confer it, and no Ordinary whose permission an itinerant priest could presume — even assuming a priest could be found who was not suspended from performing sacred rites by some other provision of the Code.
  • Baptismal water would be illicit unless it had been previously consecrated using holy oils — which themselves could not be obtained, since there would be no Ordinary capable of blessing them licitly.
  • One could baptize someone privately, of course — but that would be illicit too, unless the person were in danger of death.

Insist on the literal application of each and every article in the Code, therefore, and your children will go through life without Baptism. And don’t even think about giving them scapulars or rosaries and hoping for the best — because according to the letter of the law, only a priest with special faculties from the Ordinary could bless these items licitly. All you can do is pray that when your children are old and ready to die, someone will remember to baptize them — but only if it can be done “licitly,” of course, according to your strict interpretation of Canon 759.

C.   Equity and Prudence

Applying equity permits Catholics to avoid the positive evils and pharisaical absurdities of the two positions outlined above, one of which would compel us to deal with modernists, the other of which would logically force us to do without the sacraments. In exceptional cases, say the moralists McHugh and Callan, “legalism insists on blind obedience to the law books, but the higher justice of epikeia or equity calls for obedience to the lawgiver himself as intending the common welfare and fair treatment of the rights of each person.”13

As we’ve seen above, the common good the Church intends for canon law is “the worship of God and the supernatural sanctification of men.” The sacraments are the principal means the Church possesses for achieving this end. It is therefore entirely proper to apply equity to those provisions of the Code which, if applied to our own extraordinary circumstances, would frustrate the lawgiver’s intent by actually preventing Catholics from receiving the sacraments when they have a right to them.

This does not mean that all the provisions of the Code are negotiable. Equity, canonists and moral theologians emphasize, must be controlled by prudence and a proper sense of exception. It enables us to do the essentials, but also prevents us from making up our own rules as we go along. Here are some examples.

  • Baptism.A proper application of equity allows a traditional priest to confer solemn baptism, even though delegation would ordinarily be required. Equity would dictate, however, that he observe the other rules on baptism the Code lays down concerning matters such as record-keeping, godparents and rubrical requirements.
  • Penance.Equity (in addition to other, more specific provisions in the Code14) permits a traditional priest to grant absolution to a penitent, even though under normal circumstances faculties from the Ordinary would be required for validity. The priest could do so under the heading of supplied (rather than ordinary) jurisdiction, in view of the canonist Cappello’s principle that “the Church, by reason of her very purpose, must always take into account the salvation of souls, and therefore is bound to provide everything which depends on her power.”15Other provisions of the Code (regarding the seal, the proper place, etc.) must continue to be observed.
  • The Mass.Equity permits opening a public chapel where Catholics can have access to the Mass, even though the law requires the Ordinary’s permission. A correct understanding of equity would insist that the Code’s requirements on the physical objects needed for celebrating Mass still be followed.
  • Holy Orders.Catholics need sacraments to save their souls, and priests provide the sacraments. Equity therefore allows a traditional Catholic bishop to ordain priests without dimissorial letters (canonical permission from an Ordinary), and to consider the technical suspension which would otherwise result to be null and void. On the other hand, it would be grossly imprudent and utterly contrary to equity for a bishop to ordain someone who had not received the lengthy scholastic and spiritual formation the Code of Canon Law lays down.

Equity, then, is not license. It keeps one eye on the common good canon law intends — “the worship of God and the supernatural sanctification of men” — and the other eye on the particulars of individual laws fashioned by the wisdom of the Church. Equity seeks prudently to follow as much of canon law as possible, while still ensuring the purpose of the law is fulfilled.

*     *     *     *     *

“SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES; the same are they that give testimony of me.” Search the scriptures not to look for “proof-texts,” to be sure, but to seek the Savior. A clear picture of Our Lord emerges, full of mercy and common sense, and burning with zeal for the good of souls.

How odd that some Catholics should so distort Christ — or His Mystical Body — as to make of Him a Pharisee, “binding heavy burdens and laying them on men’s shoulders.” But no, this is the Savior who healed on the Sabbath, spoke to the Samaritan woman, and permitted His disciples to glean wheat on the day of rest, “for the Sabbath is for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”

Just as a study of Scripture will show the true and adorable face of Christ, so too will a study of the law of the Catholic Church that is faithful to authentic commentaries and sources. The same reasonable, wise, and merciful living Christ emerges from either text.

Equity — fairness in the application of law — enables the Catholic never to lose sight of Our Lord, surrendering neither to the legalists of the left nor the Pharisees of the right. Our Lord is Jesus Christ, the same “yesterday, and today, and the same forever” — in the pages of Scripture or the letter of the law, on the lips of the priest or on your tongue in Holy Communion, the “fairest of the children of men.” (St. Cyril of Alexandria.)

(Sacerdotium 7, Spring 1993).


  1. B. Merkelbach,Summa Theologiae Moralis(Paris: Descle 1946), 1:325.
  2. A. Cicognani,Canon Law(Westminster Md.: Newman 1934), 13.
  3. 3. Canon Law,
  4. Cicognani, 15.
  5. D. Prmmer,Manuale Theologiae Moralis (Barcelona: Herder 1949) 1:231.
  6. 6. Summa Theol. Mor.,1:296. My emphasis.
  7. Summa Theol.II–II.120.1.
  8. Merkelbach, 1:296.
  9. Cicognani, 15.
  10. Canon Law,17.
  11. J. McHugh & C. Callan,Moral Theology(New York: Wagner 1929), 1:140–1.
  12. See P. Palazzini, ed.,Dictionary of Moral Theology (Westminster MD: Newman 1962), 981–83.
  13. McHugh & Callan, 1:411.
  14. E.g., Canon 209 (supplied jurisdiction in cases of common error, or positive and probable doubts of law or fact).
  15. F. Cappello,Tract. de Sacramentis (Rome: Marietti 1944), 2:349.

Original Post on Novus Ordo Watch

Shocker, eh?

New Vatican News Internet Platform designed and run by Contractor known for its LGBT Activism

On Dec. 17, 2017, the Vatican officially launched its new internet communications platform,, which consolidates and replaces its previous diverse media channels. The launching of the new web site is reportedly the last part of the Unholy See’s ongoing effort to streamline and modernize its communications and media apparatus.

So far, so good. But now it has come to light that the company the Vatican hired to do all this work — both the original design and setup and the ongoing development — is one of the most openly supportive of sexual perversion out there. Accenture is the name of the company that was put under contract by the Vatican for this purpose:

A report published by Life Site reveals the sickening details of this latest move by the Novus Ordo Sect to give aid, comfort, and lots of money to people who aggressively promote the social acceptance sins that cry to Heaven for vengeance. Here is an excerpt:

Eyebrows are being raised following the announcement that a Vatican official with strong ties to LGBT activists has hired an openly homosexualist digital marketing company to design and manage the Holy See’s new internet news service.

The company, Accenture, is famous worldwide for promoting the homosexual political agenda, winning awards for being the top “gay friendly” employer, and producing videos proposing strategies for promoting “LGBT rights” throughout the world.

Accenture maintains an entire webpage of LGBT “pride” materials and a library of twelve LGBT videos on its website promoting homosexual “inclusion” in its company and in society in general. The company’s enthusiasm for pushing homosexuality was great enough to earn it the award for the most “gay friendly” company in all of Britain in 2013, and for being Ireland’s “best LGBT workplace” in 2016.

The company even signed a brief supporting the homosexual plaintiffs in the Obergefell vs. Hodges decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, which forced all fifty states to recognize gay “marriage.” It also contributes money to the “Human Rights Campaign,” an American gay lobbying organization which has in turn given the company a 100 percent pro-homosexual rating.

According to [Accenture Interactive Italy’s head, Alessandro] Diana, Accenture was not involved in any process of soliciting the contract. Rather Vatican officials approached Accenture of their own accord….

(Matthew Cullinan Hoffman, “Vatican hires LGBT activist company to create and run new internet news platform”Life Site, Dec. 20, 2017)

The curial official in charge of the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications is “Mgr.” Dario Edoardo Viganò, who was appointed to the post by Francis in 2015.

This is not the first time that Viganò has shown his LGBT-friendly colors. According to Vaticanist Marco Tosatti, cited in the same Life Site report, Viganò “has also developed a close working relationship with a homosexual radio journalist, Pierluigi Diaco, who publicly celebrated his ‘civil union’ to another man….” In addition, the infamous American “bridge builder” to sodomite hell, “Fr.” James Martin, works as a consultant for Viganò’s communications department, and although it was Francis who appointed him to the post earlier this year, Life Site associates this appointment likewise with Viganò, perhaps because of the latter’s possible influence in the selection of candidates.

To see how open and bold Accenture is in its promotion of sexual perversion as “alternative lifestyles” that are to be accepted as good and normal when in fact they are wicked and depraved, we provide the following links to official Accenture material advertising its pro-LGBT stance:

Although we can expect that there will once again not be lacking a good number of Francis-Vatican defenders who will try to spin this all into a “there’s nothing to see here, move along” story, the fact is quite simply that this is a monstrous scandal that cannot be excused. It also ties perfectly into the outrageous “Nativity scene” currently on display in St. Peter’s Square, which clearly has homosexual overtones.

Thus we see yet another instance of the real Francis Effect: Enabled, facilitated, and protected by Mr. “Who am I to judge?”, the Vatican’s “gay lobby” is fully in charge.

Image source/credit: screenshot,

Comparing side-by-side the documents of Vatican II and of the Catholic Church, we find Vatican II to be condemned…with commentary.

Liturgical Revolution

December 15th, 2017 by Vigilo

Original Post on Traditional Mass

Liturgical Revolution

Rev. Francesco Ricossa

The New Mass just was the final stage of a long process.

“The Liturgy, considered as a whole, is the collection of symbols, chants and acts by means of which the Church expresses and manifests its religion towards God.”

IN THE OLD TESTAMENT, God Himself, so to speak, is the liturgist: He specifies the most minute details of the worship which the faithful had to render to Him. The importance attached to a form of worship which was but the shadow of that sublime worship in the New Testament which Christ the High Priest wanted His Church to continue until the end of the world. In the Liturgy of the Catholic Church, everything is important, everything is sublime, down to the tiniest details, a truth which moved St. Teresa of Avila to say: “I would give my life for the smallest ceremony of Holy Church.”

      The reader, therefore, should not be surprised at the importance we will attach to the rubrics of the Liturgy, and the close attention we will pay to the “reforms” which preceded the Second Vatican Council.

      In any case, the Church’s enemies were all too well aware of the importance of the Liturgy — heretics corrupted the Liturgy in order to attack the Faith itself. Such was the case with the ancient Christological heresies, then with Lutheranism and Anglicanism in the 16th century, then with the Illuminist and Jansenist reforms in the 18th century, and finally with Vatican II, beginning with its Constitution on the Liturgy and culminating in the Novus Ordo Missae.

      The liturgical “reform” desired by Vatican II and realized in the post-Conciliar period is nothing short of a revolution. No revolution has ever come about spontaneously. It always results from prolonged attacks, slow concessions, and a gradual giving way. The purpose of this article is to show the reader how the liturgical revolution came about, with special reference to the pre-Conciliar changes in 1955 and 1960.

      Msgr. Klaus Gamber, a German liturgist, pointed out that the liturgical debacle pre-dates Vatican II. If, he said, “a radical break with tradition has been completed in our days with the introduction of the Novus Ordo and the new liturgical books, it is our duty to ask ourselves where its roots are. It should be obvious to anyone with common sense that these roots are not to be looked for exclusively in the Second Vatican Council. The Constitution on the Liturgy of December 4, 1963 represents the temporal conclusion of an evolution whose multiple and not all homogenous causes go back into the distant past.”


      According to Mgr Gamber. “The flowering of church life in the Baroque era (the Counter-Reformation and the Council of Trent) was stricken towards the end of the eighteenth century, with the blight of Illuminism. People were dissatisfied with the traditional liturgy, because they felt it did not correspond with the concrete problems of the times.” Rationalist Illuminism found the ground already prepared by the Jansenist heresy, which, like Protestantism, opposed the traditional Roman Liturgy.

      Emperor Joseph II, the Gallican bishops of France, and of Tuscany in Italy, meeting together for the Synod of Pistoia, carried out reforms and liturgical experiments “which resemble to an amazing extent the present reforms; they are just as strongly orientated towards Man and social problems.”…”We can say, therefore, that the deepest roots of the present liturgical desolation are grounded in Illuminism.”

      The aversion for tradition, the frenzy for novelty and reforms, the gradual replacement of Latin by the vernacular, and of ecclesiastical and patristic texts by Scripture alone, the diminution of the cult of the Blessed Virgin and the saints, the suppression of liturgical symbolism and mystery, and finally the shortening of the Liturgy, it judged to be excessively and uselessly long and repetitive — we find all these elements of the Jansenist liturgical reforms in the present reforms, and see them reflected especially in the reforms of John XXIII. In the most serious cases the Church condemned the innovators: thus, Clement IX condemned the Ritual of the Diocese of Alet in 1668, Clement XI condemned the Oratorian Pasquier Quesnel (1634-1719) in 1713, Pius VI condemned the Synod of Pistoia and Bishop Scipio de’ Ricci in his bull Auctorem Fidei in 1794.

The Liturgical Movement

      “A reaction to the llluminist plague,” says Mgr. Gamber. “is represented by the restoration of the nineteenth century. There arose at this time the great French Benedictine abbey of Solesmes, and the German Congregation of Beuron.” Dom Prosper Gueranger (1805-1875), Abbot of Solesmes, restored the old Latin liturgy in France.

      His work led to a movement, later called the “Liturgical Movement,” which sought to defend the traditional liturgy of the Church, and to make it loved. This movement greatly benefited the Church up to and throughout the reign of St. Pius X, who restored Gregorian Chant to its position of honor and created an admirable balance between the Temporal Cycle (feasts of Our Lord, Sundays, and ferias) and the Sanctoral Cycle (feasts of the saints).

The Movement’s Deviations

      After St. Pius X, little by little, the so called “Liturgical Movement” strayed from its original path, and came full circle to embrace the theories which it had been founded to combat. All the ideas of the anti-liturgical heresy — as Dom Guranger called the liturgical theories of the 18th century — were now taken up again in the 1920s and 30s by liturgists like Dom Lambert Beauduin (1873-1960) in Belgium and France, and by Dom Pius Parsch and Romano Guardini in Austria and Germany.

      The “reformers” of the 1930s and 1940s introduced the “Dialogue Mass,” because of their “excessive emphasis on the active participation of the faithful in the liturgical functions.” In some cases — in scout camps, and other youth and student organizations — the innovators succeeded in introducing Mass in the vernacular, the celebration of Mass on a table facing the people, and even concelebration. Among the young priests who took a delight in liturgical experiments in Rome in 1933 was the chaplain of the Catholic youth movement, a certain Father Giovanni Battista Montini.

      In Belgium, Dom Beauduin gave the Liturgical Movement an ecumenical purpose, theorizing that the Anglican Church could be “united [to the Catholic Church] but not absorbed.” He also founded a “Monastery for Union” with the Eastern Orthodox Churches, which resulted in many of his monks “converting” to the eastern schism. Rome intervened: the Encyclical against the Ecumenical Movement, Mortalium Animos (1928) resulted in Dom Beauduin being discreetly recalled, a temporary diversion. The great protector of Beauduin was Cardinal Mercier, founder of “Catholic” ecumenism, and described by the anti-modernists of the time as the “friend of all the betrayers of the Church.”

      In the 1940s liturgical saboteurs had already obtained the support of a large part of the hierarchy, especially in France (through the CPL — Center for Pastoral Liturgy) and in Germany.

A Warning from Germany

      On January 18, 1943, the most serious attack against the Liturgical Movement was launched by an eloquent and outspoken member of the German hierarchy, the Archbishop of Freiburg, Conrad Grober. In a long letter addressed to his fellow bishops, Grober gathered together seventeen points expressing his criticisms of the Liturgical Movement. He criticized the theology of the charismatics, the Schoenstatt movement, but above all the Liturgical Movement, involving implicitly also Theodor Cardinal Innitzer of Vienna.

      Few people know that Fr. Karl Rahner, SJ, who then lived in Vienna, wrote a response to Grober. We shall meet Karl Rahner again as the German hierarchy’s conciliar “expert” at the Second Vatican Council, together with Hans Kng and Schillebeeckx.

Mediator Dei

      The dispute ended up in Rome. In 1947 Pius Xll’s Encyclical on the liturgy, Mediator Dei, ratified the condemnation of the deviating Liturgical Movement.

      Pius XII “strongly espoused Catholic doctrine, but the sense of this encyclical was distorted in the commentaries made on it by the innovators and Pius XII, even though he remembered the principles, did not have the courage to take effective measures against those responsible; he should have suppressed the French CPL and prohibited a good number of publications. But these measures would have resulted in an open conflict with the French hierarchy”.

      Having seen the weakness of Rome, the reformers saw that they could move forward: from experiments they now passed to official Roman reforms.

Underestimating the Enemy

      Pius XII underestimated the seriousness of the liturgical problem: “It produces in us a strange impression,” he wrote to Bishop Grober, “if, almost from outside the world and time, the liturgical question has been presented as the problem of the moment.”

      The reformers thus hoped to bring their Trojan Horse into the Church, through the almost unguarded gate of the Liturgy, profiting from the scant attention of Pope Pius XII paid to the matter, and helped by persons very close to the Pontiff, such as his own confessor Agostino Bea, future cardinal and “super-ecumenist.”

      The following testimony of Annibale Bugnini is enlightening:

“The Commission (for the reform of the Liturgy instituted in 1948) enjoyed the full confidence of the Pope, who was kept informed by Mgr. Montini, and even more so, weekly, by Fr. Bea, the confessor of Pius Xll. Thanks to this intermediary, we could arrive at remarkable results, even during the periods when the Pope’s illness prevented anyone else getting near him.”

The Revolution Begins

      Fr. Bea was involved with Pius XII’s first liturgical reform, the new liturgical translation of the Psalms, which replaced that of St. Jerome’s Vulgate, so disliked by the protestants, since it was the official translation of the Holy Scripture in the Church, and declared to be authentic by the Council of Trent. (Motu proprio, In cotidianis precibus, of March 24, 1945.) The use of the New Psalter was optional, and enjoyed little success.

      After this reform, came others which would last longer and be more serious:

  • May 18, 1948: establishment of a Pontifical Commission for the Reform of the Liturgy, with Annibale Bugnini as its secretary January 6, 1953: the Apostolic Constitution Christus Dominus on the reform of the Eucharistic fast.
  • March 23, 1955: the decree Cum hac nostra aetate, not published in the Acta Apostolica Sedis and not printed in the liturgical books, on the reform of the rubrics of the Missal and Breviary.
  • November 19, 1955: the decree Maxima Redemptionis, new rite of Holy Week, already introduced experimentally for Holy Saturday in 1951.

      The following section will discuss the reform of Holy Week. Meanwhile, what of the rubrical reforms made in 1956 by Pius XII ? They they were an important stage in the liturgical reforms, as we will see when we examine the reforms of John XXIII. For now it is enough to say that the reforms tended to shorten the Divine Office and diminish the cult of the saints. All the feasts of semidouble and simple ranks became simple commemorations; in Lent and Passiontide one could choose between the office of a saint and that of the feria; the number of vigils was diminished and octaves were reduced to three. The Pater, Ave and Credo recited at the beginning of each liturgical hour were suppressed; even the final antiphon to Our Lady was taken away, except at Compline. The Creed of St. Athanasius was suppressed except for once a year.

      In his book, Father Bonneterre admits that the reforms at the end of the pontificate of Pius XII are “the first stages of the self-destruction of the Roman Liturgy.” Nevertheless, he defends them because of the “holiness” of the pope who promulgated them.

“Pius XII,” he writes, “undertook these reforms with complete purity of intention, reforms which were rendered necessary by the need of souls. He did not realize — he could not realize — that he was shaking discipline and the liturgy in one of the most crucial periods of the Church’s history; above all, he did not realize that he was putting into practice the program of the straying liturgical movement.”

Jean Crete comments on this:

“Fr. Bonneterre recognizes that this decree signaled the beginning of the subversion of the liturgy, and yet seeks to excuse Pius XIl on the grounds that at the time no one, except those who were party to the subversion, was able to realize what was going on. I can, on the contrary, give a categorical testimony on this point. I realized very well that this decree was just the beginning of a total subversion of the liturgy, and I was not the only one. All the true liturgists, all the priests who were attached to tradition, were dismayed.

“The Sacred Congregation of Rites was not favorable toward this decree, the work of a special commission. When, five weeks later, Pius XII announced the feast of St. Joseph the Worker (which caused the ancient feast of Ss. Philip and James to be transferred, and which replaced the Solemnity of St Joseph, Patron of the Church), there was open opposition to it.

“For more than a year the Sacred Congregation of Rites refused to compose the office and Mass for the new feast. Many interventions of the pope were necessary before the Congregation of Rites agreed, against their will, to publish the office in 1956 — an office so badly composed that one might suspect it had been deliberately sabotaged. And it was only in 1960 that the melodies of the Mass and office were composed — melodies based on models of the worst taste.

“We relate this little-known episode to give an idea of the violence of the reaction to the first liturgical reforms of Pius XII”.

The 1955 Holy Week: Anticipating the New Mass

      “The liturgical renewal has clearly demonstrated that the formulae of the Roman Missal have to be revised and enriched. The renewal was begun by the same Pius XII with the restoration of the Easter Vigil and the Order of Holy Week, which constituted tile first stage of the adaptation of the Roman Missal to the needs of our times.”

      These are the very words of Paul VI when he promulgated the New Mass on April 3, 1969. This clearly demonstrates how the pre-Conciliar and post-Conciliar changes are related. Likewise, Msgr. Gamber wrote that

“The first Pontiff to bring a real and proper change to the traditional missal was Pius XII, with the introduction of the new liturgy of Holy Week. To move the ceremony of Holy Saturday to the night before Easter would have been possible without any great modification. But then along came John XXIII with the new ordering of the rubrics. “Even on these occasions, however, the Canon of the Mass remained intact. [Also John XXIII introduced the name of St. Joseph into the Canon during the council, violating the tradition that only the names of martyrs be mentioned in the Canon.] It was not even slightly altered. But after these precedents, it is true, the doors were opened to a radically new ordering of the Roman Liturgy.”

      The decree, Maxima Redemptionis, which introduced the new rite in 1955, speaks exclusively of changing the times of the ceremonies of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, to make it easier for the faithful to assist at the sacred rites, now transferred after centuries to the evenings those days.

      But no passage in the decree makes the slightest mention of the drastic changes in the texts and ceremonies themselves. In fact, the new rite of Holy Week was a nothing but a trial balloon for post-Conciliar reform which would follow. The modernist Dominican Fr. Chenu testifies to this:

“Fr. Duploye followed all this with passionate lucidity. I remember that he said to me one day, much later on. ‘If we succeed in restoring the Easter Vigil to its original value, the liturgical movement will have won; I give myself ten years to achieve this.’ Ten years later it was a fait accompli.”

      In fact, the new rite of Holy Week, is an alien body introduced into the heart of the Traditional Missal. It is based on principles which occur in Paul VI’s 1965 reforms.

      Here are some examples:

  • Paul VI suppressed the Last Gospel in 1965; in 1955 it was suppressed for the Masses of Holy Week.
  • Paul VI suppressed the psalm Judica me for the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar; the same had been anticipated by the 1955 Holy Week.
  • Paul VI (following the example of Luther) wanted Mass celebrated facing the people; the 1955 Holy Week. initiated this practice by introducing it wherever possible (especially on Palm Sunday).
  • Paul VI wanted the role of the priest to be diminished, replaced at every turn by ministers; in 1955 already, the celebrant no longer read the Lessons, Epistles, or Gospels (Passion) which were sung by the ministers –even though they form part of the Mass. The priest sat down, forgotten, in a corner.
  • In his New Mass, Paul VI suppresses from the Mass all the elements of the “Gallican liturgy (dating from before Charlemagne), following the wicked doctrine of “archaeologism” condemned by Pius Xll. Thus, the offertory disappeared (to the great joy of protestants), to be replaced by a Jewish grace before meals. Following the same principle, the New Rite of Holy Week had suppressed all the prayers in the ceremony of blessing the palms (except one), the Epistle, Offertory and Preface which came first, and the Mass of the Presanctified on Good Friday.
  • Paul VI, challenging the anathemas of the Council of Trent, suppressed the sacred order of the subdiaconate; the new rite of Holy Week, suppressed many of the subdeacon’s functions. The deacon replaced the subdeacon for some of the prayers (the Levate on Good Friday) the choir and celebrant replaced him for others (at the Adoration of the Cross).

The 1955 Holy Week: Other Innovations

Here is a partial list of other innovations introduced by the new Holy Week:

  • The Prayer for the Conversion of Heretics became the “Prayer for Church Unity”
  • The genuflection at the Prayer for the Jews, a practice the Church spurned for centuries in horror at the crime they committed on the first Good Friday.
  • The new rite suppressed much medieval symbolism (the opening of the door of the church at the Gloria Laus for example).
  • The new rite introduced the vernacular in some places (renewal of baptismal promises).
  • The Pater Noster was recited by all present (Good Friday).
  • The prayers for the emperor were replaced by a prayer for those governing the republic, all with a very modern flavor.
  • In the Breviary, the very moving psalm Miserere, repeated at all of the Office, was suppressed.
  • For Holy Saturday the Exultet was changed and much of the symbolism of its words suppressed.
  • Also on Holy Saturday, eight of the twelve prophecies were suppressed.
  • Sections of the Passion were suppressed, even the Last Supper disappeared, in which our Lord, already betrayed, celebrated for the first time in history the Sacrifice of the Mass.
  • On Good Friday, communion was now distributed, contrary to the tradition of the Church, and condemned by St. Pius X when people had wanted to initiate this practice
  • All the rubrics of the 1955 Holy Week rite, then, insisted continually on the “participation” of the faithful, and they scorned as abuses many of the popular devotions (so dear to the faithful) connected with Holy Week.

      This brief examination of the reform of Holy Week should allow the reader to realize how the “experts” who would come up with the New Mass fourteen years later had used and taken advantage of the 1955 Holy Week rites to test their revolutionary experiments before applying them to the whole liturgy.

Roncalli: Modernist Connections.

      Pius XII succeeded by John XXIII. Angelo Roncalli. Throughout his ecclesiastical career, Roncalli was involved in affairs that place his orthodoxy under a cloud. Here are a few facts:

      As professor at the seminary of Bergamo, Roncalli was investigated for following the theories of Msgr. Duchesne, which were forbidden under Saint Pius X in all Italian seminaries. Msgr Duchesne’s work, Histoire Ancienne de l’Eglise, ended up on the Index.

      While papal nuncio to Paris, Roncalli revealed his adhesion to the teachings of Sillon, a movement condemned by St. Pius X. In a letter to the widow of Marc Sagnier, the founder of the condemned movement, he wrote: The powerful fascination of his [Sagnier’s] words, his spirit, had enchanted me; and from my early years as a priest, I maintained a vivid memory of his personality, his political and social activity.”

      Named as Patriarch of Venice, Msgr.Roncalli gave a public blessing to the socialists meeting there for their party convention. As John XXIII, he made Msgr. Montini a cardinal and called the Second Vatican Council. He also wrote the Encyclical Pacem in Terris. The Encyclical uses a deliberately ambiguous phrase, which foreshadows the same false religious liberty the Council would later proclaim.

The Revolution Advances

      John XXIII’s attitude in matters liturgical, then, comes as no surprise. Dom Lambert Beauduin, quasi-founder of the modernist Liturgical Movement, was a friend of Roncalli from 1924 onwards. At the death of Pius XII, Beauduin remarked: “If they elect Roncalli, everything will be saved; he would be capable of calling a council and consecrating ecumenism…”‘

      On July 25, 1960, John XXIII published the Motu Proprio Rubricarum Instructum. He had already decided to call Vatican II and to proceed with changing Canon Law. John XXIII incorporates the rubrical innovations of 1955–1956 into this Motu Proprio and makes them still worse. “We have reached the decision,” he writes, “that the fundamental principles concerning the liturgical reform must be presented to the Fathers of the future Council, but that the reform of the rubrics of the Breviary and Roman Missal must not be delayed any longer.”

      In this framework, so far from being orthodox, with such dubious authors, in a climate which was already “Conciliar,” the Breviary and Missal of John XXIII were born. They formed a “Liturgy of transition” destined to last — as it in fact did last — for three or four years. It is a transition between the Catholic liturgy consecrated at the Council of Trent and that heterodox liturgy begun at Vatican II.

The “Antiliturgical Heresy” in the John XXIII Reform

      We have already seen how the great Dom Guranger defined as “liturgical heresy” the collection of false liturgical principles of the 18th century inspired by Illuminism and Jansenism. I should like to demonstrate in this section the resemblance between these innovations and those of John XXIII.

      Since John XXIII’s innovations touched the Breviary as well as the Missal, I will provide some information on his changes in the Breviary also. Lay readers may be unfamiliar with some of the terms concerning the Breviary, but I have included as much as possible to provide the “flavor” and scope of the innovations.

  1. Reduction of Matins to three lessons. Archbishop Vintimille of Paris, a Jansenist sympathizer, in his reform of the Breviary in 1736, “reduced the Office for most days to three lessons, to make it shorter.” In 1960 John XXIII also reduced the Office of Matins to only three lessons on most days. This meant the suppression of a third of Holy Scripture, two-thirds of the lives of the saints, and the whole of the commentaries of the Church Fathers on Holy Scripture. Matins, of course, forms a considerable part of the Breviary.

  1. Replacing ecclesiastical formulas style with Scripture. “The second principle of the anti-liturgical sect,” said Dom Guranger, “is to replace the formulae in ecclesiastical style with readings from Holy Scripture.” While the Breviary of St. Pius X had the commentaries on Holy Scripture by the Fathers of the Church, John XXIII’s Breviary suppressed most commentaries written by the Fathers of the Church. On Sundays, only five or six lines from the Fathers remains.

  1. Removal of saints’ feasts from Sunday. Dom Gueranger gives the Jansenists’ position: “It is their [the Jansenists’] great principle of the sanctity of Sunday which will not permit this day to be ‘degraded’ by consecrating it to the veneration of a saint, not even the Blessed Virgin Mary. A fortiori, the feasts with a rank of double or double major which make such an agreeable change for the faithful from the monotony of the Sundays, reminding them of the friends of God, their virtues and their protection — shouldn’t they be deferred always to weekdays, when their feasts would pass by silently and unnoticed?”

      John XXIII, going well beyond the well-balanced reform of St. Pius X, fulfills almost to the letter the ideal of the Janenist heretics: only nine feasts of the saints can take precedence over the Sunday (two feasts of St. Joseph, three feasts of Our Lady, St. John the Baptist, Saints Peter and Paul, St. Michael, and All Saints). By contrast, the calendar of St. Pius X included 32 feasts which took precedence, many of which were former holydays of obligation. What is worse, John XXIII abolished even the commemoration of the saints on Sunday.

  1. Preferring the ferial office over the saint’s feast. Dom Guranger goes on to describe the moves of the Jansenists as follows: “The calendar would then be purged, and the aim, acknowledged by Grancolas (1727) and his accomplices, would be to make the clergy prefer the ferial office to that of the saints. What a pitiful spectacle! To see the putrid principles of Calvinism, so vulgarly opposed to those of the Holy See, which for two centuries has not ceased fortifying the Church’s calendar with the inclusion’ of new protectors, penetrate into our churches!”

      John XXIII totally suppressed ten feasts from the calendar (eleven in Italy with the feast of Our Lady of Loreto), reduced 29 feasts of simple rank and nine of more elevated rank to mere commemorations, thus causing the ferial office to take precedence. He suppressed almost all the octaves and vigils, and replaced another 24 saints’ days with the ferial office. Finally, with the new rules for Lent, the feasts of another nine saints, officially in the calendar, are never celebrated. In sum, the reform of John XXIII purged about 81 or 82 feasts of saints, sacrificing them to “Calvinist principles.”

      Dom Gueranger also notes that the Jansenists suppressed the feasts of the saints in Lent. John XXIII did the same, keeping only the feasts of first and second class. Since they always fall during Lent, the feasts of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Gregory the Great. St. Benedict, St. Patrick, and St. Gabriel the Archangel would never be celebrated.

  1. Excising miracles from the lives of the Saints. Speaking of the principle of the Illuminist liturgists, Dom Gueranger notes: “the lives of the saints were stripped of their miracles on the one hand, and of their pious stories on the other.”

      We have seen that the reform of 1960 suppresses two out of three lessons of the Second Nocturn of Matins, in which the lives of the saints are read. But this was not enough. As we mentioned, eleven feasts were totally suppressed by the preconciliar rationalists. For example, St. Vitus, the Invention of the Holy Cross, St. John before the Latin Gate, the Apparition of St. Michael on Mt. Gargano, St. Anacletus, St. Peter in Chains, the Finding of St. Stephen, Our Lady of Loreto (“A flying house! How can we believe that in the twentieth century!”); among the votive feasts, St. Philomena (the Cure of Ars was so “stupid” to have believed in her).

      Other saints were were eliminated more discreetly: Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Our Lady of Ransom, St. George, St. Alexis, St. Eustace, the Stigmata of St. Francis — these all remain, but only as a commemoration on a ferial day.

      Two popes are also removed, seemingly without reason: St. Sylvester (was he too triumphalistic?) and St. Leo II (the latter, perhaps, because he condemned Pope Honorius.)

      We note finally a “masterwork” which touches us closely. From the prayer to Our Lady of Good Counsel, the 1960 reform removed the words which speak of the miraculous apparition of her image, if the House of Nazareth cannot fly to Loreto, how can we imagine that a picture which was in Albania can fly to Genzzano?

  1. Anti-Roman Spirit. The Jansenists suppressed one of the two feasts of the Chair of St. Peter (January 18), and also the Octave of St. Peter. Identical measures were taken by John XXIII.

  1. Suppression of the Confiteor before Communion. The suspect Missal of Trojes suppressed the Confiteor. John XXIII did the same thing in 1960.

  1. Reform of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday. and Holy Saturday. This happened in 1736, with the suspect Breviary of Vintimille (“a very grave action, and what is more, most grievous for the piety of the faithful,” said Dom Gueranger.) John XXIII had his precedent here, as we have seen!

  1. Suppression of Octaves. The same thing goes for the suppression of nearly all the octaves (a usage we find already in the Old Testament, to solemnize the great feasts over eight days), anticipated by the Jansenists in 1736 and repeated in 1955-1960.

  1. Make the Breviary as short as possible and without any repetition.This was the dream of the renaissance liturgists (the Breviary of the Holy Cross, for example, abolished by St. Pius V), and then of the illuminists. Dom Gueranger said that the innovators wanted a Breviary “without those complicated rubrics which oblige the priest to make a serious study of the Divine Office; moreover, the rubrics themselves are traditions, and it is only right they should disappear. Without repetitions…and as short as possible… They want a short Breviary. They will, have it; and it will be up to the Jansenists to write it.”

      These three principles will be the public boast of the reform of 1955 and 1960: the long petitions in the Office called Preces disappear; so too, the commemorations, the suffrages, the Pater, Ave, and Credo, the antiphons to Our Lady, the Athanasian Creed, two-thirds of Matins, and so on.

11. Ecumenism in the Reform of John XXIII. The Jansenists hadn’t thought of this one. The reform of 1960 suppresses from the prayers of Good Friday the Latin adjective perfidis (faithless) with reference to the Jews, and the noun perfidiam (impiety) with reference to Judaism. It left the door open for John Paul II’s visit to the synagogue.

      Number 181 of the 1960 Rubrics states: “The Mass against the Pagans shall be called the Mass for the Defense of the Church. The Mass to Take Away Schism shall be called the Mass for the Unity of the Church.”

      These changes reveal the liberalism, pacifism, and false ecumenism of those who conceived and promulgated them.

  1. The Office becomes “private devotional reading.”        One last point, but one of the most serious: The Ottaviani Intervention rightly declared that “when the priest celebrates without a server the suppression of all the salutations (i.e., Dominus Vobiscum, etc.) and of the final blessing is a clear attack on the dogma of the communion of the saints.” The priest, even if he is alone, when celebrating Mass or saying his Breviary, is praying in the name of the whole Church, and with the whole Church. This truth was denied by Luther.

      Now this attack on dogma was already included in the Breviary of John XXIII it obliged the priest when reciting it alone to say Domine exaudi orationem meam (O Lord, hear my prayer) instead of Dominus vobiscum (The Lord be with you). The idea, “a profession of purely rational faith.” was that the Breviary was not the public prayer of the Church any more, but merely private devotional reading.

A Practical Conclusion

      Theory is of no use to anyone, unless it is applied in practice. This article cannot conclude without a warm invitation, above all to priests. to return to the liturgy “canonized” by the Council of Trent, and to the rubrics promulgated by St. Pius X.

      Msgr Gamber writes: “Many of the innovations promulgated in the last twenty-five years — beginning with the decree on the renewal of the liturgy Holy Week of February 9, 1951 [still under Pius XII] and with the new Code of rubrics of July 25, 1960, by continuous small modifications, right up to the reform of the Ordo Missae of April 3. 1969 — have been shown to be useless and dangerous to their spiritual life.”

      Unfortunately, in the “traditionalist” camp, confusion reigns: one stops at 1955; another at 1965 or 1967. Archbishop Lefebvre’s followers, having first adopted the reform of 1965, returned to the 1960 rubrics of John XXIII even while permitting the introduction of earlier or later uses! There, in Germany, England, and the United States, where the Breviary of St. Pius X had been, recited, the Archbishop attempted to impose the changes of John XXIII. This was not only for legal motives, but as a matter of principle; meanwhile, the Archbishop’s followers barely tolerated the private recitation of the Breviary of St. Pius X.

      We hope that this and other studies will help people understand that these changes are part of the same reform and that all of it must be rejected if all is not accepted. Only with the help of God — and clear thinking — will a true restoration of Catholic worship be possible.

(The Roman Catholic, February–April 1987).

Traditional Priests, Legitimate Sacraments

December 13th, 2017 by Vigilo

Original Post on Traditional Mass

Traditional Priests, Legitimate Sacraments

Rev. Anthony Cekada

Divine law obliges rather than forbids us to confer sacraments.

NOW AND AGAIN a traditional Catholic will hear someone claim that the sacraments he receives are illicit.

 Sometimes members of the Novus Ordo establishment  the diocesan bishop or local pastor, say  will make this charge, citing one provision of canon law or another.

 Or a traditional Catholic may come across a tract by a traditionalist type popularly called a home-aloner. This is someone who rejects Vatican II and the New Mass, but at the same time denounces the sacramental ministrations of all (or most) traditional Catholic priests as illegal, sinful, punishable by excommunication, against canon law or, in the case of confession, invalid. So in place of receiving sacraments, he recommends that you stay home alone.

 In the early 1990s I wrote two articles dealing with these issues, Canon Law and Common Sense and Home Alone, both of which enjoyed a fairly wide circulation in traditionalist circles.

 I decided to return to the topic because several new home-aloner tracts have appeared over the past few years, the most recent claiming that traditionalist clergy violate not merely canon law, but divine law.

Now, making credible arguments based on such concepts requires a fairly high degree of specialized knowledge in moral theology, canon law, sacramental law, and dogmatic theology. Ordinarily this can only be acquired by taking formal courses in these disciplines at a Catholic seminary or university, and then augmenting this basic knowledge through comparative study of major canonical and theological works, all of which are in Latin. (Some are listed in the bibliography below.)

 No home-aloners I know of have this background, or even suspect how extensive their ignorance of these disciplines really is. Hence it is not surprising to find in their most recent writings two underlying errors.

First, these writers assume that the most important question a Catholic priest must always ask about a sacrament is whether he is permitted or forbidden to confer it.

This turns everything on its head. The priesthood is not just a privilege that stintingly permits something; it is a munus or officium (duty) to do something: to offer sacrifice and to dispense sacraments. So for a priest the real question is always: What sacraments am I now obliged to confer?

Second, probably because less specialized works sometimes use the terms indiscriminately, the writers confuse two distinct concepts in canon law as they relate to the administration of the sacraments: (1) deputation (a legitimate faculty or permission from the Church to administer sacraments) and (2)jurisdiction (ruling power over others in spiritual things.)

A priest or bishop must have legitimate deputation for all the sacraments he confers because their confection and administration is divinely committed to the ministry of the Church. (Cappello, de Sacramentis 1:49) Jurisdiction, on the other hand, is required only for confession.

The would-be lay canonists, however, seem to think the law requires a priest to have jurisdiction whenever he confers a sacrament, and they base most of their criticism on this hidden assumption. But since deputation suffices, such arguments are beside the point.

I will briefly develop both these issues below. Most of what follows serves equally well for answering the home-aloners and members of the Vatican II establishment.

I. Divine Law

OUR LORD’S commands to baptize (Mt 28:19), forgive sins (Jn 20:22), offer Mass (Lk 22:19), etc. constitute a divine law that binds all Catholic bishops and priests until the end of time.

Some priests are obliged in justice to administer sacraments; the rest are obliged on other grounds, explained either as in charity or in virtue of ordination. Here are the principles:

  1. Obligation in Justice(ex justitia). This category comprises all priests who have thecura animarum (care of souls).

This technical term in canon law refers to priests who, by reason of their office or special title of jurisdiction, whether ordinary (a diocesan bishop, a superior general, a pastor or his equivalents) or delegated (coadjutor or assistant pastors) are obliged to shepherd a particular part of Christ’s flock. (Merkelbach, Summa Theologiae Moralis 3:86)

Their obligation to administer sacraments arises from the divine law [SS citations] that commands shepherds to feed their sheep and indeed procure their spiritual good and their salvation. (Herv,Manuale Theologiae Dogmaticae 4:491)

Priests with the cura animarum were gravely bound by divine law to provide the sacraments to faithful Catholics qualified to receive them.

  1. Obligation in Charity(ex caritate). Other priests who lack this type of ordinary or delegated jurisdiction  e.g., seminary professors, administrators, teachers, unassigned, retired, etc.  are also nevertheless obliged to provide sacraments to the faithful, depending on how serious the need is for an individual or a community.

Some authors say their obligation is based in the virtue of charity: When priests who have the cura animarum are lacking,other priests are bound out of charity to administer the sacraments, in serious need for a community, [such priests] are bound to administer the sacraments, even at the risk of their lives, as long as there is reasonable hope of assisting and there is no one else who will help. This obligation binds under pain of mortal sin. (Merkelbach 3:87. My emphasis.)

  1. Obligation in Virtue of Ordination.Other authors say that such priests are obliged to provide sacraments not simply out of charity, but in virtue of theirsacramental ordinationitself. Here is one explanation:

They are bound by a certain general obligation arising from the sacred order they received. For Christ the Lord made them priests to devote themselves to saving souls. Because of this purpose, their special duty is to administer the Sacraments. This is obvious from the ordination rite, which gives them the power to offer sacrifice and absolve from sins, and which specifies administering the other sacraments among their other duties. This obligation binds more gravely depending on the seriousness of the spiritual need of the faithful in the diocese where [such a] priest is supposed to serve or in the place where he lives. When such a community is obviously in serious need  when, for instance, due to the small number of priests or confessors, people have no convenient way to assist at Mass on Sundays and feast days and receive the Eucharist, or where it is inconvenient for people to frequent the Sacrament of Penance, so that many remain in sin  a priest has a grave obligation to administer these sacraments and to prepare himself properly for the duty of confessor. (Aertnys-Damen, Theologia Moralis 2:26: Generali quadam obligatione tenentur ex ordine suscepto  in necessitate simpliciter gravi talis communitatis gravis est obligatio Original emphasis.)

These principles apply as follows: After Vatican II nearly all bishops and priests with the cura animarum defected to the new religion. The few priests who resisted, on the other hand, were professors, outcasts in their religious orders or dioceses, retired, etc.

These priests were then bound by divine law to provide sacraments for Catholics, who, since their pastors had apostasized, were now obviously in serious need. The priests were not obliged to seek permission. Rather, they were obliged, both in charity and in virtue of their ordination, to baptize, absolve, offer Mass, etc.

Not only that, but the bishops among them  Abps. Lefebvre and Thuc  were obliged to confer Holy Orders on worthy candidates who would then continue to provide sacraments for faithful Catholics throughout the world.

Their obligation arose from the sacred order of episcopacy they had both received. The one-sentence exhortation to the candidate in the Rite of Episcopal Consecration expresses this obligation succinctly: It is the duty of a bishop to judge, to interpret, to consecrate, to ordain, to offer sacrifice, to baptize and to confirm.

Moreover, those of us who derive our orders from Abps. Lefebvre or Thuc obviously have no appointment to the cura animarum. But like all other priests, we are likewise obliged by divine law, in charity and in virtue of ordination, to provide sacraments to the faithful who remain in grave common need.

  1. Legitimate Deputation & Mission

FURTHER, AS regards legitimacy all authority to dispense the sacraments originates from the mission given to the apostles by means of the same divine commands cited above (to baptize, absolve, offer Mass, etc.). (Billot, De Ecclesiae Sacramentis 1:179.) This is because:

No one dispenses another person’s property legitimately unless he does so based on that person’s command. Now, the sacraments are Christ’s property. Only those, therefore, who have a mission from Christ  namely, those to whom the apostolic mission derives  dispense them legitimately.(Billot, ibid.)

Those whom Our Lord has bound by divine law to confer sacraments, then, simultaneously receive from Him the legitimate deputation and the apostolic mission to confer them.

III. Human Ecclesiastical Law

ALTHOUGH CERTAIN canons in the Code expressly recall principles of the divine positive law (for examples, see Michels, Normae Generales Juris Canonici 1:210ff), the canons that prescribe how thelegitimate deputation to baptize, absolve, offer Mass, etc. is conferred or obtained are not themselves divine law, but only human law.

According to general principles of law, a human law:

A. Ceases automatically and positively when it becomes harmful (nocivato observe. For this, see the works by moral theologians and canonists Abbo-Hannon, Aertnys-Damen, Badii, Beste, Cappello, Cicognani, Cocchi, Coronata, Maroto, McHugh-Callan, Merkelbach, Michels, Noldin, Regatillo-Zalba, Vermeersch, Wernz-Vidal, etc. in the bibliography below.

B. Ceases in common need, even if the law would otherwise render a sacrament invalid.Thus, for instance, an invalidating impediment to marriage normally requiring dispensation by a church official with ordinary jurisdiction would cease to bind because of common need, when access to someone with the requisite authority is impossible. (Merkelbach 1:353)

Such a common need would also occur, for instance, during a time of persecution or upheaval in a particular country. In this case, if the purpose of the law would cease in a contrary way for the community that is, if common harm would result from it the law would not bind, because it would rightly be considered to be suspended, due to benign interpretation of the mind of the lawgiver. (Cappello 5:199)

C. Does not bind when it conflicts with the divine law. In a conflict of obligations, the higher one takes precedence. Divine positive law takes precedence over human legislation. (Jone, Moral Theology 70). The supreme rule in the matter is this: The obligation that prevails is the one arising from the law which, considering its nature and purpose, is of greater importance Precepts of the divine positive law must prevail over precepts of human positive law. (Noldin, Summa Theologiae Moralis 1:207)

  1. Application

AS REGARDS the human ecclesiastical laws cited as prohibiting traditional Catholic priests to administer sacraments in the present situation:

A. Common Good.Applying these laws would deprive Catholics of the sacraments and thus directly impede the common good (bonum commune) that the Church intends for all her laws. This common good, the theologian Merkelbach says, is the worship of God and the supernatural sanctification of men. (Summa Theol. Mor. 1:325: Dei cultus et sanctificatio supernaturalis hominum)

B. Cessation. Such human ecclesiastical laws would therefore become harmful (nocivae), and as such would, according to the general principles of law laid down by moral theologians and canonists, automaticallycease. (See III.A)

This includes Canons 953 and 2370, which would otherwise forbid the consecration of a bishop without an apostolic mandate (the papal document authorizing the consecration), because observing them would eventually deprive the faithful of sacraments whose conferral requires a minister in Holy Orders.

This also includes Canon 879.1, which governs jurisdiction for absolution: To hear confessions validly jurisdiction must be granted expressly, either orally or in writing. The moral theologian and canonist Prmmer specifically characterizes this canon as ecclesiastical law. (Manuale Theologiae Moralis 3:407: A jure ecclesiastico statuitur, ut jurisdictionis concessio a) sit expressa sive verbis sive scripto Original emphasis).

Since the canon is human ecclesiastical law and not divine law, the requirement for an express grant of jurisdiction could therefore cease on grounds of common need (see III.B), because Catholics in mortal sin need absolution and because we priests are obliged to provide it.

Our obligation would arise, as St. Alphonsus explains, out of the very nature of the priestly office itself, to which Christ’s institution has connected this duty, and that a priest is bound to fulfill it when the need of the people demands it. (Aertnys-Damen 2:26n. ex proprio Sacerdotis officio quod Sacerdos exercere tenetur Original emphasis.)

C. Prevailing Obligation. In any case, the grave obligation to dispense the sacraments that divine law imposes on traditional Catholic priests in charity and in virtue of their ordination takes precedence over the human ecclesiastical laws cited against them. (See III.C)

  1. Legitimate Deputation & Mission.Simultaneously, this same divine law necessarily endows traditional Catholic bishops and priests with legitimate deputation or an apostolic mission to dispense sacraments. (See II) Moreover, if it were otherwise, God would be imposing a grave obligation while withholding any morally licit means to fulfill it quod impossibile.
  2. Jurisdiction for Absolution

IN THE CASE of legitimate deputation for confession, divine law requires that for valid absolution of sinners, a priest must also possess the power of jurisdiction in addition to the power of Holy Orders. No traditional Catholic priest I know of disputes this.

Jurisdiction is a moral power to rule subjects in those things that pertain to their supernatural end. (Merkelbach 3:569) As noted above, jurisdiction is either ordinary (attached to an office) or delegated (committed to a person, either by law or a superior). It operates in the external forum (the Church as a society) or the internal forum (the individual before God usually meaning in confession).

The jurisdiction we traditional Catholic priests possess has been delegated to us from Christ Himself in virtue of the divine law and operates in the internal forum, because:

  1. Canon 879 ceases.The human ecclesiastical law (canon 879) requiring that jurisdiction for confessions be expressly granted in writing or orally has ceased. (See IV.B)
  2. Divine Law provides jurisdiction.The divine law by which Christ grantsjurisdiction to those he commands to forgive sins (as distinct from sacramental power to do so) is found in John 20:21: As the Father sent me, so I send you. (Merkelbach 3:574)

This divine law always endures, together with the jurisdiction from Christ necessary to fulfill it. It is obvious, says the theologian Herrmann, that this power of the keys will last forever in the Church. For since Christ willed that the Church last until the end of the world, He also lavished upon her the means without which she could not achieve her purpose, the salvation of souls. (Institutiones Theologiae Dogmaticae 2:1743. My emphasis.)

Indeed, Christ’s Church must supply jurisdiction for absolution in extraordinary circumstances: The Church must, because of her special purpose, provide for the salvation of souls, and so she is therefore bound to provide everything that depends on her power. (Cappello 2:349. My emphasis.)

For although, as Cardinal Billot says, ecclesiastical law is directed more at binding than loosing, and divine law is more directed at loosing than binding, ultimately, the Church’s instrumental jurisdiction is directed at loosing indeed, at loosing the bonds which depend not upon ecclesiastical law, but upon divine law. (Tractatus de Ecclesia Christi 1:476. My emphasis.)

  1. God exercises the authority.Our delegated jurisdiction in the internal forum is not an ecclesiastical power, but a divine power granted by authority proper to God Himself (who alone is able directly to touch the conscience and the bond of sin). It operates through the pope however as a minister and instrument of divinity, and therefore not by authority proper to the Church,but rather by God exercising His own authority. (Merkelbach 3:569. My emphasis.)

To sum up the foregoing:

Divine law obliges traditional Catholic priests and bishops to administer sacraments to the faithful. (See I)

This same divine law also provides legitimate deputation and apostolic mission for their apostolate. (See II)

Human ecclesiastical (canon) laws whose application impedes fulfilling this divine law have ceased because they are now harmful (nocivae). (See III & IV)

This includes canon 879, requiring an express grant of jurisdiction for validity of absolution. (See III.B & IV.B)

Instead, divine law directly delegates jurisdiction in the internal forum to traditional Catholic priests for the absolution they impart. (See V)

None of this, I hasten to add, justifies ignoring the many other provisions of ecclesiastical law regulating the conferral and reception of the sacraments, especially those forbidding the conferral of Holy Orders on the ignorant and the unfit.

Christ Himself commands His priests to dispense His sacraments to His flock. Since the pastors invested with jurisdiction for the cura animarum have all defected to the modernist religion, their obligation now devolves to us, the few faithful priests who remain.

We confer Christ’s sacraments because He has made it our duty.

(Pamphlet, July 2003)


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