Procinctu Press | THE BLOG

Liturgical Revolution

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

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)


ABBO, J & J. Hannon. The Sacred Canons. St. Louis: Herder 1957. 2 vols.

AERTNYS, I. & C. Damen. Theologia Moralis. 17th ed. Rome: Marietti 1958.

BADII, C. Institutiones Iuris Canonici. 3rd ed. Florence: Fiorentina 1921.

BESTE, U. Introductio In Codicem. CollegevilleMN: St. John’s 1946.

BILLOT, L. (Cardinal). De Ecclesiae Sacramentis. Rome: 1931. 2 vols

__________. Tractatus de Ecclesia Christi. 5th ed. Rome: Gregorian 1927. 2 vols.

CAPPELLO, F. Institutiones Iuris Canonici. 5th ed. Santander: Sal Terrae: 1956. 2 vols.

__________. Tractatus Canonico-Moralis de Sacramentis. Rome: Marietti 1951. 5 vols.

CICOGNANI, A. Canon Law. 2nd edWestminsterMD: Newman 1934.

COCCHI, G. Commentarium in Codicem Iuris Canonici. 6th ed. Rome: Marietti 1938. 8 vols.


CORONATA, M. De Sacramentis: Tractatus Canonicus. Turin: Marietti 1943. 3 vols.

__________. Institutiones Juris Canonici. 4th ed. Turin: Marietti 1950. 3 vols.

HERRMANN, P. Institutiones Theologiae Dogmaticae. Rome: Della Pace 1908. 2 vol.

HERV. J. Manuale Theologiae Dogmaticae. Paris: Berche 1932. 4 vols.

JONE, H. Moral Theology. WestminsterMD: Newman 1955.

MAROTO, P. Institutiones Iuris Canonici. Rome: 1921. 4 vols.

MCHUGH, J, & C. Callan. Moral Theology. New York: Wagner 1929.

MERKELBACH B. Summa Theologiae Moralis. 8th ed. Montreal: Descle 1949. 3 vols.

MICHIELS, G. Normae Generales Juris Canonici, 2nd ed. Paris: Descle 1949. 2 vols.

NOLDIN, H. & A. Schmitt. Summa Theologiae Moralis. Innsbruck: Rauch 1940. 3 vols

PRMMER, D. Manuale Theologiae Moralis. 10th ed. Barcelona: Herder 1946. 3 vols.

REGATILLO, E. & M. Zalba. Theologiae Moralis Summa. Madrid: BAC 1954. 3 vols.

VERMEERSCH, A & I. Creusen. Epitome Iuris Canonci. 7th ed. Rome: Dessain 1949. 3 vols.

WERNZ, F. & P. Vidal. Ius Canonicum. Rome: Gregorian 1934. 8 vols.

An Inside Look at the New Church of Vatican II | Fr. Michael Oswalt

Original Post on Novus Ordo Watch

Insights from a former Novus Ordo priest

An Inside Look at the New Church of Vatican II
by Fr. Michael Oswalt

As a former Novus Ordo priest, now a Catholic priest, Fr. Michael Oswalt is in a unique position that allows him to tell truly the inside story of the conciliar sect. This he did on Oct. 12, 2017, at the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen’s annual Fatima Conference in Spokane, Washington.

With the kind permission of Fr. Oswalt, we are making this audio available to you. The talk is entitled, “An Inside Look at the New Church of Vatican II”. You can listen free of charge by using the player below:

More information about the conference at which Fr. Oswalt spoke and recordings of the other talks given, can be obtained here:

Long-time readers of Novus Ordo Watch will be familiar with Fr. Oswalt. In 2015, he appeared as a guest on the podcast radio program Escape from the Novus Ordo, produced by True Restoration, which we gladly sponsored and featured on this blog. Here is a listing of all episodes, which are still available in full and entirely free of charge:

Before his conversion, Fr. Oswalt was a “Catholic priest” for the Modernist diocese of Rockford, Illinois. At some point he began to realize that the religion in which he was operating was not — as he had previously thought — the Roman Catholic religion established by our Lord Jesus Christ, but a Modernist counterfeit whose beliefs and practices undermine and even outright contradict the traditional Roman Catholic teachings of all Popes until the death of Pius XII in 1958.

After coming to terms with the fact that his “bishop” was not in fact the legitimate Roman Catholic bishop of the diocese and he himself was not a validly ordained priest, Mr. Oswalt exited the Vatican II Church and became a real Catholic. In March of 2009, he wrote a letter to the Novus Ordo clergy in his diocese, explaining why he was abandoning what he appropriately called the “impostor church”. The letter has been made available on the internet in English and Spanish:

Later in the same year, Mr. Oswalt went on to study for the true priesthood, and he was finally ordained a genuine Catholic priest in 2011 by Bp. Mark Pivarunas. At the current time, Fr. Oswalt is stationed at St. Benedict Catholic Church in Huntsville, Alabama.

Between 2009 and 2011, Stephen Heiner of True Restoration went to interview Mr. (later Fr.) Oswalt and speak to him about his conversion from the Novus Ordo. These interviews can be watched at the following link:

It is a tremendous gift of grace for a Novus Ordo priest to realize that he is not in fact in the true Catholic Church and that his ordination is null and void, or, depending on the particulars of the ordination, at least doubtful. Fr. Oswalt responded generously to an outpouring of grace from Almighty God and thus multiplied the talents he had been given, to the joy of his Divine Lord (cf. Mt 25:14-30). We pray that Fr. Oswalt’s conversion story will inspire many Novus Ordo clergy unwittingly stuck in the pseudo-catholic religion of Vatican II to do likewise, so that they too will abandon the Novus Ordo Sect and convert to the true Roman Catholic religion as the world knew it from 33 AD until 1958.

“Lord, that I may see” (Lk 18:41). May this be the prayer of all people of good will who seek to be true Catholics but have fallen victim to the Modernist usurpers.


False pope Francis Counters Church Teaching, Allows Communion for Public Adulterers

Original Post on Novus Ordo Watch

Clarification appears in ‘Acta Apostolicae Sedis’…

False pope Francis Counters Church Teaching, Allows Communion for Public Adulterers “Authentic Magisterium”

Analysis & Commentary

After more than 19 months of reports, analyses, arguments, interviews, rumors, conjectures, accusations, excuses, warnings, “corrections”, promises, allusions, and plenty of spin, the “doubts” about the correct interpretation of Francis’ “Apostolic” Exhortation Amoris Laetitia have now been officially put to rest: In a tacit move behind the scenes, Francis ordered that his Sep. 2016 endorsement of the interpretation offered by the Argentine “bishops” of the Buenos Aires region for their flock become a part of his (putative) “authentic Magisterium” and be included in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, which is the official Vatican organ publishing papal texts and decisions. Semi-Traditionalists and conservative Novus Ordos are in shock, scrambling to figure out what this means and what to do next.

Before we proceed to analyze and evaluate this latest move on the part of the “Pope”, which puts an end to the debate over Amoris Laetitia at least de jure, let’s first recall the background and look at the raw facts:

  • The Buenos Aires Guidelines on the Interpretation of Amoris Laetitia and Francis’ approval of them in letter to Buenos Aires “Bishops” on Sep. 5, 2016
  • Full Text in Spanish and English of Buenos Aires Guidelines (PDF)
  • Full Text in Spanish and English of Francis’ Approval of Buenos Aires Guidelines (PDF)
  • Although these guidelines and Francis’ endorsement were originally leaked to the public, some time ago they were published on the Vatican web site
  • The most offensive portion of the Buenos Aires Guidelines is this one: “If one arrives at the recognition that, in a particular case, there are limitations that diminish responsibility and culpability…, particularly when a person judges that he would fall into a subsequent fault by damaging the children of the new union, Amoris Laetitia opens up the possibility of access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist…. These in turn dispose the person to continue maturing and growing with the aid of grace. However, it is necessary to avoid understanding this possibility as an unrestricted access to the sacraments, or as though any situation might justify it. What is proposed is a discernment that adequately distinguishes each case” (nn. 6-7).
  • Francis’ endorsement of the Buenos Aires Guidelines is clear and definitive: “The document is very good and completely explains the meaning of chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia. There are no other interpretations.”
  • The Buenos Aires Guidelines as well as Francis’ endorsement have been published in the Oct. 2016 edition of the Acta Apostolicae Sedis (vol. CVIII [108], n. 10; pp. 1071-1074). Francis’ endorsement is called an “Apostolic Letter” (p. 1071).
  • Appended to the two documents is a “Rescript ‘from an Audience with His Holiness’” by “Cardinal” Pietro Parolin, dated June 5, 2017, which reads: “The Supreme Pontiff decreed that the two preceding documents be promulgated through publication on the Vatican website and in Acta Apostolicae Sedis, as authentic Magisterium.”
  • The Acta Apostolicae Sedis (“Acts of the Apostolic See”) is the “only official publication of the Holy See … in which all official acts and laws in whatever form are promulgated” (Michael Williams, The Catholic Church in Action [New York, NY: P. J. Kenedy & Sons, 1958], p. 155). It was instituted by Pope St. Pius X in 1908 with the Apostolic Constitution Promulgandi. Although not all decisions of the Roman Congregations are published in the Acta, nevertheless, “if they contribute to the interpretation of some point of canon law or are of interest in jurisprudence, they are published” there (The Catholic Church in Action, p. 90).

These are the facts. After catching up on covering all the news items from Francis’ recent trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh, Novus Ordo news sites began to report on this Amoris Laetitiadevelopment. Here are links to just a few:

Considering that the Novus Ordo Sect itself requires its adherents to hold that the “authentic Magisterium” of the man they recognize as Pope requires their “religious submission of the intellect and will” (see Canon 752 of Novus Ordo Canon Law), conservative Novus Ordos and Semi-Traditionalists now have an obvious problem on their hands, one they must either admit and seek to resolve or else deny and explain away.

Which is exactly what they’re doing. We look at a few of their efforts and evaluate them:

“Deacon” Nick Donnelly

In a tweet of Dec. 2, 2017, English “Deacon” Nick Donnelly asked: “Has Francis deposed himself as the successor of St Peter by attempting to make the heretical interpretation of AL Authentic Magisterium?” For a Novus Ordo cleric, this is quite a courageous question to raise, and it is refreshing to see. A great many of his colleagues do not have the guts to do so. Pray for all of them, that they may begin (or continue) to wake up.

“Bishop” René Henry Gracida

Likewise on Dec. 2, René Henry Gracida, a retired Novus Ordo bishop from Texas, wrote on his blog: “Francis’ heterodoxy is now official. He has published his letters to the Argentine bishops in the ACTA APOSTOLICA SEDES [sic] making those letters magisterial documents.” The “bishop” has been republishing posts from other blogs that denounce or are severely critical of Francis. Earlier this year, Gracida became the first (and, so far, only) Modernist “bishop” to publicly voice doubt regarding Francis’ legitimacy.

Vox Cantoris

David Domet at Vox Cantoris is willing to call Francis a “pernicious and filthy heretic” but still believes that “cardinals must now begin the formal process” of accusing/warning and judging him — an idea that is totally at odds with the Catholic dogma that the Pope — and this the blogger believes him to be — cannot be judged by any man, for all men are his inferiors. But while no one can subject a true Pope to an ecclesiastical trial, what can be done is recognize that a particular papal claimant is indeed a “pernicious and filthy heretic”, as obviously even Mr. Domet agrees with regard to Francis. But from this it follows with necessity that he is not the Pope of the Catholic Church, and for this cognitive (not legal) judgment, no authority is needed. It is the only possible and therefore necessary conclusion to draw from all the evidence.

Michael Voris

Michael Voris of Church Militant fired up his spin machine and, unable to ignore this big of a story, he at least sought to focus his viewers’ attention away from Francis and instead directed it to those evil “bishops” who are basically doing what Francis has been doing. Not once but twice did Voris try this tactic:

  • Vortex“Critical Moment”, Dec. 4, 2017: “While this may appear to be a crisis regarding the papacy, we’d like to point to something even more critical….”
  • Vortex“The Real Deal”, Dec. 5, 2017: “…another much more important question needs to be asked. How is it — regardless of what the pope meant — that so many various bishops and bishops’ conferences seem to agree that those in an objective state of mortal sin can in some circumstances receive Holy Communion?”

We call his enterprise Church Disneyland for a reason. His Vortex is in reality a Distortex.

Steve Skojec

Over at One Peter Five, rhetorician Steve Skojec presented an “expert” assessment from Dr. John Joy on Francis’ move to have the Buenos Aires Guidelines and his endorsement added to the Acts of the Apostolic See. Joy advanced a rather curious thesis: Although the inclusion in the Acta “means that it is an official act of the pope rather than an act of the pope as a private person”, and although it is clearly “an official endorsement” of the Buenos Aires interpretation of Amoris Laetitia, nevertheless Joy claims that “this doesn’t necessarily mean that the letter to the Argentine bishops is itself magisterial” — and so religious submission of intellect and will wouldn’t necessarily be required. Apparently Joy missed the fact that Francis had explicitly decreed that the two documents be given the status of “authentic Magisterium.”

Louie Verrecchio

Resignationist Louie Verrecchio was also not impressed by Joy’s expert analysis. In fact, Verrecchio succinctly summarized the whole spectacle about the latest Amoris Laetitia development thus: “Jorge Bergoglio is a heretic; notorious, formal, pertinacious, and that, my friends, is hardly breaking news.” Being a Resignationist, Verrecchio already believes Francis isn’t a valid Pope (he thinks Benedict XVI is), so he finds his rejection of the Argentinian impostor corroborated.

Dan Hitchens

In a convoluted post at Catholic Herald, columnist Dan Hitchens offers what sounds like a rather desperate attempt to persuade himself and others that it is best to move along because there is really nothing to see here. He maintains that Francis’ decision to include the Buenos Aires Guidelines and his endorsement in the Acta “may somewhat clarify what the Pope is saying” while noting “the ambiguity of the document” and concluding that “this episode leaves us pretty much where we were.” In other words: whatever.

David Martin

The Semi-Traditionalist comedy site The Remnant failed to surprise in its commentary, which was provided by David Martin:

Hence Amoris Laetitia [Chapter] VIII, which proposes that people living in adultery can be guiltless and thus be admitted to the sacraments of Confession and Communion when “concrete circumstances” make it difficult to renounce their adulterous state, is now declared “magisterial” by the Holy See. 

The problem with this is that heresy or sacrilege can never be declared magisterial, so that if it is, it not only has no binding force, but the faithful are obliged to resist and refute such a declaration. St. Thomas Aquinas says in his Summa Theologiae: “If the faith were endangered, a subject ought to rebuke his prelate [pope] even publicly.”

(David Martin, “Communion to Adulterers Promulgated as ‘Authentic Magisterium’”The Remnant, Dec. 4, 2017)

And there you have The Remnant‘s entire theological “competence” on display. We may rephrase Martin’s argument thus: “What cannot be magisterial cannot be magisterial; so if it is, then it doesn’t count. And look over here, we found a nice quote from St. Thomas Aquinas. It has nothing to do with the subject matter, but don’t let the facts get in the way of our propaganda.”

Only if Francis were to issue his endorsement of the Buenos Aires Guidelines ex cathedra (i.e., meeting Vatican I’s conditions for infallibility) would Francis cease to be Pope, Martin assures his hapless readers — incorrectly, of course. Although even this much would be contrary to The Remnant‘s usual position, we must remind Martin that Francis has already done things a true Pope is divinely protected from doing — such as declaring John Paul II a saint of the Catholic Church, for the canonization of saints is an act protected by infallibility, as even Remnant columnist Christopher Ferrara once knew.

Christopher Ferrara

Speaking of Chris Ferrara, we would be totally remiss, of course, if we did not pay particular attention to what this professional spindoctor has to say about Francis’ declaration that the Buenos Aires Guidelines are now “authentic Magisterium.” As of the time of this writing, Ferrara has published three posts on the matter at the Fatima Network web site:

In the first post, Ferrara correctly shows that there is no reasonable way to absolve Francis of error here; but then he asserts that whether or not Francis has fallen into heresy is “ultimately … not for any of us, but only for the Church (an ecumenical council or subsequent Pope as in the case of Honorius I), to judge definitively.” This is nonsense, of course. Whether or not Francis has embraced heresy is not dependent on some authoritative judgment, definitive or otherwise, but on Catholic teaching applied to the empirically verifiable facts.

Interestingly enough, Ferrara knows this and acts accordingly when it comes to individuals other than the ones who claim to be Pope, especially when it is helpful to the case he’s arguing at a given moment. For example, consider what Ferrara said about “Cardinal” Walter Kasper a few years back, also in connection with Amoris Laetitia:

Kasper is one of the Church’s most notorious post-conciliar Modernists, who, among other heresies, has denied the historicity of the Apostolic Succession. Not surprisingly, then, his address to the cardinals calls for a “pastoral solution” that would allow certain divorced and “remarried” Catholics, living in a state of public adultery, to receive Holy Communion.

(Christopher A. Ferrara, “The Francis Effect: A Gathering Storm”The Remnant, Mar. 11, 2014; underlining added.)

Here we see the lawyer Ferrara identifying Kasper as not only a heretic but in fact a “most notorious” one, correctly labeling the heresy he adheres to as Modernism. More specifically, The Remnant‘s chief polemicist accuses Kasper of denying the historicity of the Apostolic Succession and notes that this is but one “among other heresies” the “cardinal” holds. A little later in the same article, Ferrara even accuses Kasper not only of being a heretic but of deliberately “undermin[ing] [an] aspect of the Faith”.

So, when it comes to “Cardinal” Kasper, Ferrara has no problem detecting heresy and identifying and condemning him as a heretic. Yet when Bergoglio does the same thing Kasper does, suddenly we “don’t know” if it’s heresy. This isn’t principled Catholic commentary on Ferrara’s part — it is simply propaganda meant to persuade the reader in favor of The Remnant‘s editorial position.

As far as the case of Pope Honorius I goes, by the way, that argument has been refuted here.

Francis’ decision to declare the explanation of Amoris Laetitia given by the Buenos Aires “bishops” to become part of his “authentic Magisterium” is a devastating blow to Ferrara, who has maintained for years that none of the errors since Vatican II have ever been “official” or “binding” and therefore not truly “magisterial”; rather, the lawyer from Virginia maintains, there has been a “great facade” erected that makes it appear as though the regime of novelty since the council were official, binding, and magisterial, when in reality it is not so.

Ferrara argues this at length in a book he co-authored with Thomas E. Woods, Jr., entitled, The Great Facade: The Regime of Novelty in the Catholic Church from Vatican II to the Francis Revolution (2nd ed., 2015). This book had appeared in its first edition in 2002. We will quote two sentences from this work, found in both editions, that have now come back to bite the authors: “Satan understands better than any other creature that the Magisterium can never officially teach error…. [W]e have the divine assurance that the Church can never officially teach error” (The Great Facade, 1st ed: p. 66; 2nd ed: p. 60; italics given).

But this is exactly what Francis has now done, and it is absolutely undeniable, since he explicitly used the phrase “authentic Magisterium” with regard to his approval of the Buenos Aires Guidelines and ordered them to be published in the official compilation of papal pronouncements, the Acta Apostolicae Sedis. In other words: It doesn’t get any more official or magisterial than this (in degree, yes, but not in kind).

Faced with this unhappy refutation of his own position, Ferrara’s task was now to find a way around it all. This he did in his second post on the subject:

As the explosive new book on Pope Francis, The Dictator Pope, makes its appearance as a best seller in both English and Italian editions, the Church is confronted with an astonishing dictatorial abuse of the Magisterium itself by Francis and what some have called his “magic circle” of handpicked ultra-progressivists.

(Christopher A. Ferrara, “The Authentic Magisterium is Truth, not a Trademark”Fatima Network, Dec. 5, 2017)

Notice that in the opening sentence already our lawyer calls Francis’ move a “dictatorial abuse of the Magisterium”. But if, as Ferrara believes, Francis is Pope, what should be “abusive” about ordering one of his own Apostolic Letters to be included in the Acta? Did not Pope Pius IX do the same thing when he commended the German bishops for their explanation of the dogma of papal infallibility in his Apostolic Letter Mirabilis Illa Constantia (see Denz.-H. 3112-3117)?

Of course, what constitutes the “dictatorial abuse of the Magisterium” for Ferrara is not the form of promulgation but the falsity of Francis’ teaching. However, the truth of a doctrine can never itself be part of the criteria for what constitutes an authentic exercise of the Magisterium, for that would result in absurdity: It would require the faithful to know ahead of time and independently of the Magisterium what is true and what is false in religious matters, when the whole point of the Magisterium is to teachpeople what is true and what is false concerning faith and morals. Thus the role of teacher and taughtwould be entirely reversed.

Ferrara proceeds to criticize Francis’ inclusion of the two documents in the Acta as follows:

This move is a blatant attempt to halt all criticism of AL (including the seemingly imminent “formal correction” by Cardinals Burke and Brandmüller) by cloaking the letter and the guidelines in the language of Canon 752 of the 1984 Code of Canon Law, which (citing Vatican II) provides “[a]lthough not an assent of faith, a religious submission of the intellect and will must be given to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declares concerning faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim it by definitive act; therefore, the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid those things which do not agree with it.”

The ploy cannot succeed. Francis’ novelty cannot be part of the “authentic Magisterium” because it transgresses the fundamental divine limitation on papal doctrinal authority as enunciated by the First Vatican Council:

“For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.”

Francis is here claiming to announce new doctrine, overturning the teaching of his own predecessor in keeping with all of Tradition. As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under John Paul II declared in 1998, the absolution and admission to Holy Communion of public adulterers in “second marriages,” without a commitment to cease adulterous sexual relations, “is intrinsically impossible” and “The conscience of the individual is bound to this norm without exception.” That is because this is a norm “over which the Church has no discretionary authority. The indissoluble nature of marriage… goes back to Christ Himself and is thus identified as a norm of divine law,” and the admission of public adulterers to Holy Communion would violate that divine moral norm.

This is the usual line of argumentation used by the recognize-and-resist crowd: What constitutes the genuine Roman Catholic Magisterium is determined not by the (putative) Vicar of Christ, the Pope, but by some American lawyer with access to the traditional Denzinger, who routinely reviews the Pope’s pronouncements to judge their orthodoxy and then informs the populace as to what is and isn’t to be accepted from the man who is “judged by no one” (1917 Code of Canon LawCanon 1556). No doubt, St. Pius X would have been impressed!

What is worse is that Ferrara thinks that Vatican I is helping his case, but this is not so. If we look at the words he quoted in their proper context, this becomes evident. Their source is Chapter 4 of the Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus. This document contains the council’s solemn teaching about the Papacy. Chapter 1 shows how our Blessed Lord instituted the Papacy and made St. Peter the first Pope; Chapter 2 explains how this primacy exists in all true successors of St. Peter, even until the end of time; Chapter 3 explains in what the papal primacy consists; and Chapter 4 defines the infallible teaching authority of the Pope.

We will now look at Chapter 4 in its entirety to see the full context. The words quoted by Ferrara we will mark red:

That apostolic primacy which the Roman pontiff possesses as successor of Peter, the prince of the apostles, includes also the supreme power of teaching. This holy see has always maintained this, the constant custom of the church demonstrates it, and the ecumenical councils, particularly those in which East and West met in the union of faith and charity, have declared it.

So the fathers of the fourth council of Constantinople, following the footsteps of their predecessors, published this solemn profession of faith: The first condition of salvation is to maintain the rule of the true faith. And since that saying of our lord Jesus Christ, You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, cannot fail of its effect, the words spoken are confirmed by their consequences. For in the apostolic see the catholic religion has always been preserved unblemished, and sacred doctrine been held in honour. Since it is our earnest desire to be in no way separated from this faith and doctrine, we hope that we may deserve to remain in that one communion which the apostolic see preaches, for in it is the whole and true strength of the christian religion.

What is more, with the approval of the second council of Lyons, the Greeks made the following profession: “The holy Roman church possesses the supreme and full primacy and principality over the whole catholic church. She truly and humbly acknowledges that she received this from the Lord himself in blessed Peter, the prince and chief of the apostles, whose successor the Roman pontiff is, together with the fullness of power. And since before all others she has the duty of defending the truth of the faith, so if any questions arise concerning the faith, it is by her judgment that they must be settled.”

Then there is the definition of the council of Florence: “The Roman pontiff is the true vicar of Christ, the head of the whole church and the father and teacher of all Christians; and to him was committed in blessed Peter, by our lord Jesus Christ, the full power of tending, ruling and governing the whole church.”

To satisfy this pastoral office, our predecessors strove unwearyingly that the saving teaching of Christ should be spread among all the peoples of the world; and with equal care they made sure that it should be kept pure and uncontaminated wherever it was received.

It was for this reason that the bishops of the whole world, sometimes individually, sometimes gathered in synods, according to the long established custom of the churches and the pattern of ancient usage referred to this apostolic see those dangers especially which arose in matters concerning the faith. This was to ensure that any damage suffered by the faith should be repaired in that place above all where the faith can know no failing.

The Roman pontiffs, too, as the circumstances of the time or the state of affairs suggested, sometimes by summoning ecumenical councils or consulting the opinion of the churches scattered throughout the world, sometimes by special synods, sometimes by taking advantage of other useful means afforded by divine providence, defined as doctrines to be held those things which, by God’s help, they knew to be in keeping with sacred scripture and the apostolic traditions.

For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.

Indeed, their apostolic teaching was embraced by all the venerable fathers and reverenced and followed by all the holy orthodox doctors, for they knew very well that this see of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error, in accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Saviourto the prince of his disciples: I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.

This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successors in this see so that they might discharge their exalted office for the salvation of all, and so that the whole flock of Christ might be kept away by them from the poisonous food of error and be nourished with the sustenance of heavenly doctrine. Thus the tendency to schism is removed and the whole church is preserved in unity, and, resting on its foundation, can stand firm against the gates of hell.

But since in this very age when the salutary effectiveness of the apostolic office is most especially needed, not a few are to be found who disparage its authority, we judge it absolutely necessary to affirm solemnly the prerogative which the only-begotten Son of God was pleased to attach to the supreme pastoral office.

Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the christian faith, to the glory of God our saviour, for the exaltation of the catholic religion and for the salvation of the christian people, with the approval of the sacred council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals.

Therefore, such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the church, irreformable.

So then, should anyone, which God forbid, have the temerity to reject this definition of ours: let him be anathema.

(Vatican I, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Chapter 4; underlining added.)

Clearly, what Vatican I is teaching is that because he is assisted by the Holy Ghost, the Pope will“religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles” and will not “make known some new doctrine” by the revelation of the same Holy Ghost.

Mr. Ferrara, on the other hand, reduces this teaching to little more than a superficial banality: He claims it simply means that the Pope isn’t supposed to make new doctrines, for that is not why the Holy Ghost was given him. Such an interpretation of the text is not tenable because this much is true of anyone, not just of the Pope alone. In fact, even a Protestant would agree that his own self-styled pastor isn’t supposed to teach his own strange doctrines. That’s hardly a profound insight to be taught by a Catholic ecumenical council!

Secondly, notice that the conciliar constitution says that “the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine…” (italics added). If Ferrara’s understanding of this passage were correct, it would mean that the Pope is not supposed to proclaim new doctrines that are nevertheless revealed to him by the Holy Ghost — a grotesque thing for a Catholic council to teach.

Thirdly, Ferrara’s interpretation does not jibe with the surrounding context, which establishes the prerogatives and uniqueness of the Papacy, protected by the Holy Ghost. What sort of divine protection would the Holy Ghost provide if the Pope were merely “not supposed to” invent new doctrines but nevertheless be quite capable of doing so? Wouldn’t that be true also of your local grocery store clerk and the grumpy bus driver on your morning commute? Aren’t they, too, “not supposed to” come up with a new gospel?

It is evident, therefore, that Vatican I teaches, not that the Pope ought not to teach new (or false) doctrine, but that he actually does not. That is the meaning of the special assistance of the Holy Ghost for the Pope. Ferrara turns the doctrine of Vatican I from describing a truth about the Papacy into a merely normative rule for papal conduct — but the idea that dogmas are merely normative and not descriptive was actually condemned by Pope St. Pius X in his Syllabus of Modernist Errors: “The dogmas of the Faith are to be held only according to their practical sense; that is to say, as preceptive norms of conduct and not as norms of believing” (Pius X, Decree Lamentabili Sane Exitu, error n. 26). This statement is to “be held by all as condemned and proscribed”, according to the Pope.

Ferrara concludes his Dec. 5 post as follows:

In sum, “authentic Magisterium” stands for the truth of Christ and what the Church has always taught in His name and by His authority. It is not a trademark that Pope Francis can blithely affix to his absurd novelties in order to declare them beyond criticism or discussion.

Never in the entire history of the Church has any Pope dared to abuse the Magisterium in this manner. There have been other papal tyrants in Church history, but never has there been a Pope who tried to tyrannize Catholic doctrine itself by demanding universal submission to his own errant ideas.

Several observations must be made here.

First, a man who believes the Vatican II Sect is the Roman Catholic Church can hardly speak about “what the Church has always taught”, for the Vatican II Church does not teach, for example, the social kingship of Christ, the absolute identity of the Church our Lord founded with the Catholic Church, or the necessity of the Church for salvation. Thus it is false to say that the church he believes in “has always taught” this. His church hasn’t taught it for the last 50 years — so “always” is simply not true. We notice that our lawyer from Virginia has now carefully added the caveat “in His name and by His authority” — this will allow him to argue later that whatever heresies or other errors may proceed from the Novus Ordo magisterium henceforth, cannot be considered as being taught “in [Christ’s] name and by His authority.” This may be clever on his part, but it is totally unworthy of Sacred Theology. People need to remember that when they read Ferrara, they are simply watching a skilled lawyer at work.

Secondly, notice that Ferrara shies away from quoting any Catholic dogmatic theology manual for a definition of what constitutes the “authentic Magisterium” — which would have been the natural thing to do. But where Ferrara fails, Novus Ordo Watch is happy to help out:

Authentic magisterium (from [Greek] authentia = authority) is the office of handing on doctrine instituted by a legitimate authority. Therefore, it implies in the teacher the power and office of handing on doctrine; but in the disciples [i.e. in the taught] the obligation and right to receive instruction. Magisterium can be authentic in two ways: in the broad sense and in the strict sense.

Authentic magisterium in the broad sense is that which by itself does not have the power to demand from the disciple the assent of the intellect. Such is, for example, the magisterium of a professor in a university. Authentic magisterium in the strict sense is that which has such power in itself to impose doctrine, that the disciples by that very fact are bound to give the assent of the intellect, because of the authority of the legate of God which the teacher makes use of.

(Fr. Joachim Salaverri, Sacrae Theologiae Summa IB: On the Church of Christ, trans. by Fr. Kenneth Baker [original Latin published by BAC, 1955; English published by Keep the Faith, 2015], n. 504; italics given.)

Why did Mr. Ferrara not see fit to quote a definition such as this for his “explanation” of what constitutes the authentic papal Magisterium? Quite simply, because it sinks his boat. Ferrara does not proceed from Catholic teaching in his argumentation and then reason to a necessary conclusion. Instead, he begins with his desired conclusion and then tries to find (highly selective) evidence to back it up — at the expense of traditional Catholic teaching if need be. This is why we call him a propagandist and rhetorician.

Ferrara’s position on the authentic Magisterium, which is held by virtually all recognize-and-resist adherents, is also blown to pieces by St. Robert Bellarmine, the Doctor of the Papacy, who emphasized that the nature of the papal teaching authority is such that if God did not prevent it from teaching error, all the faithful would be led into such error precisely because of their divinely-mandated duty of submission:

The Pope is the Teacher and Shepherd of the whole Church, thus, the whole Church is so bound to hear and follow him that if he would err, the whole Church would err.

Now our adversaries respond that the Church ought to hear him so long as he teaches correctly, for God must be heard more than men.

On the other hand, who will judge whether the Pope has taught rightly or not? For it is not for the sheep to judge whether the shepherd wanders off, not even and especially in those matters which are truly doubtful. Nor do Christian sheep have any greater judge or teacher to whom they might have recourse. As we showed above, from the whole Church one can appeal to the Pope yet, from him no one is able to appeal; therefore necessarily the whole Church will err if the Pontiff would err.

(St. Robert Bellarmine, De Romano Pontifice, Book IV, Chapter 3; translated by Ryan Grant as On the Roman Pontiff [Mediatrix Press, 2016], vol. 2, p. 160; underlining added.)

It’s just too bad that this Doctor of the Church did not take into consideration that there is quite an easy solution to this conundrum: an American layman could just declare on various online and print publications that the “Pope” has it all wrong — problem solved and gates of hell kept from prevailing!

Ferrara himself loves to quote Bellarmine whenever he can find a quote that supports (or so he thinks) the position he is arguing (see, for example, here and here — with a sedevacantist response here). But when Bellarmine clearly refutes him, Ferrara sides with…. Ferrara!

The same goes for the American lawyer’s quoting of Pope Pius IX, for example. He will be happy to quote certain parts of the encyclical Quanta Cura, but you will scarcely find him quote the following text from the same document:

Nor can we pass over in silence the audacity of those who, not enduring sound doctrine, contend that “without sin and without any sacrifice of the Catholic profession assent and obedience may be refused to those judgments and decrees of the Apostolic See, whose object is declared to concern the Church’s general good and her rights and discipline, so only it does not touch the dogmata of faith and morals.” But no one can be found not clearly and distinctly to see and understand how grievously this is opposed to the Catholic dogma of the full power given from God by Christ our Lord Himself to the Roman Pontiff of feeding, ruling and guiding the Universal Church.

(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Quanta Cura, n. 5)

Little did the good Pius IX suspect that eventually there would be found the likes of Chris Ferrara, who refuse assent and obedience even to those judgments of the (putative) Holy See that do touch upon faith and morals — in the name of “Tradition”, of course!

Ferrara’s position is also dangerously close to that which was explicitly condemned by St. Pius X, namely, the following assertion: “In proscribing errors, the Church cannot demand any internal assent from the faithful by which the judgments she issues are to be embraced” (Decree Lamentabili Sane Exitu, error n. 7). But then again, if a layman from the United States gets to reject the “authentic Magisterium” of one man he accepts as Pope, why not also that of others?

Joseph Shaw

Other high-profile individuals who have commented on Francis’ latest addition to the “authentic Magisterium” include Dr. Joseph Shaw, the official spokesman for the famous Filial Correction effort. He appears to be grasping at straws as he tries to persuade his readers that, in essence, nothing has really changed — totally ignoring Francis’ now “magisterial” statement that “[t]here are no other interpretations” of Amoris Laetitia‘s Chapter VIII than the one given by the Buenos Aires “bishops.”

Edward Peters and “Fr.” John Zuhlsdorf

Canon lawyer Ed Peters seeks refuge in an argument that can only be considered legalistic: Canon 915in Novus Ordo Canon Law states that people “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion”; and since Francis has not explicitly decreed that this canon be revoked or considered superseded, Peters reasons, nothing has really changed. (Mr. John Zuhlsdorf, otherwise known as “Fr. Z”, agrees with him in essence.)

While this argument may work for a canon lawyer, who only considers what pertains specifically to the theological discipline of canon law, it is simply a red herring. The issue is not that Canon Law has or has not been changed — the elephant in the living room is that Francis has used his putative authentic Magisterium to impose the idea that reception of the sacraments is not per se impermissible for people who are in public mortal sin of which they have not repented.

Concluding Remarks

In summary, we can say that the reactions among the conservative Novus Ordos and Semi-Traditionalists are quite varied. While some select few are willing to concede that Francis has squared the circle and therefore some serious questions now need to be asked regarding his legitimacy, others maintain silly positions that run the gamut from “he didn’t actually say it” to “he may have said it but he didn’t mean it” to “he said it and meant it but it doesn’t count.” But only Michael Voris managed to insult his audience so badly that he basically said, “Who cares? You should be worried about the evil bishops!”

Interestingly enough, Francis’ move doesn’t just leave prominent Novus Ordo and Semi-Trad commentators with the proverbial egg on their faces. “Cardinal” Gerhard Ludwig Muller, too, doesn’t look too good now. Recall that Muller was interviewed about Amoris Laetitia in May 2017 by EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo:

ARROYO: Why do you think Amoris Laetitia has been so…It was a document intended, I think, to bring everyone together around the centrality of marriage and family, and yet it has caused such global division. I mean even the Pope himself, when he approves of the Argentine bishops interpretation, that seems to give credence and weight to the absolute opposite of what you’re…the interpretation that you’re advancing; that you can’t change this and that nothing has changed and that there is no possibility of this. The Pope seems to be giving a preference to the Argentines who say there is a path here…

MÜLLER: I’m not that clear with all that actions, bishops interpret the pope, the pope interpret the bishops. And, we have some rules in how to act in the Church. We have synods, coming together and then the pope make a summary and with his papal authority he gives his explanation or writes the documents and then must be…all be finished not with interpretation of the interpretation; that is not good for (the) Church. And I am saying (this) as a Catholic theologian.

(Interview with “Cardinal” Gerhard Muller, The World Over, May 25, 2017; transcript here; video here)

We’ll just leave it at that.

By the way, now that the Buenos Aires Guidelines and Francis’ endorsement of them are included in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, we can expect that they will also show up in the next Novus Ordo edition of Denzinger. Think about that for a minute.

The upshot of all this is a very simple Catholic truth we have repeated here time and again: The Papacy has consequences. Recognizing a man as the Pope of the Catholic Church who is in fact a manifest anti-Catholic heretic or even apostate, has dire consequences because the office of Vicar of Christ is more than just a title. The Pope is a teacher, legislator, and administrator with genuine authority given him directly by God.

We would like to remind all our readers of some articles we have published here before regarding the Papacy, demonstrating that the true Catholic teaching about the Pope has been eclipsed by today’s self-proclaimed “traditionalists” who recognize Francis as Pope but then refuse him submission:

Those interested in more sedevacantist commentary on Francis’ move to include the Buenos Aires Guidelines in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis may wish to read what Tom Droleskey has written:

If there is indeed going to be a schism between the conservative and the liberal Modernist camps in the Novus Ordo Sect over Francis, this move should be the trigger point. If this doesn’t do it, there will be no schism at all.

The Papacy has consequences, and one of these consequences is that a true Pope cannot do what Francis has done.


Pius XII, Excommunication, and Traditional Catholic Bishops

Original Post of Traitional Mass

Pius XII, Excommunication, and Traditional Catholic Bishops

Rev. Anthony Cekada

CONTROVERSIALISTS have sometimes invoked a 1951 decree and a 1958 encyclical of Pius XII against various traditional Catholic bishops, including those consecrated by Abp. P.M. Ngo-dinh-Thuc.

      The two documents excommunicated certain Chinese bishops whose consecrations the Red Chinese government had arranged in order to set up a stooge hierarchy in China under Communist control.

      The 9 April 1951 Decree establishing the automatic penalty of excommunication for the consecration of a bishop reads as follows:

“Decree concerning the Consecration

of a Bishop without Canonical Appointment.

“The Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, in virtue of a special faculty established for it by the Supreme Pontiff, publishes the following Decree:

“A Bishop, of whatever rite or dignity, who consecrates as a Bishop someone who is neither nominated by the Holy See nor expressly confirmed by that same See, and he who receives consecration, even if coerced by grave fear (c.229, 3, 3), incur ipso facto [automatically] excommunication most especially reserved to the Apostolic See.

This Decree takes effect from the date of its promulgation.


Those who have attempted to invoke this decree in our own circumstances seem to have confused two things:

  1.    The mandatum: the papal document granting permission for the consecration of a bishop who will serve as a bishop in any capacity, including as an auxiliary or titular bishop, and
  2.    The canonical appointment: a papal decree designating a bishop as Ordinary (or “residential bishop”) of a duly constituted diocese, which appointment auxiliary and titular bishops did not receive.

      The canonist Fr. Eduardo Regatillo, in his Institutiones Juris Canonici (Santander: Sal Terrae 1956), 2:600, states that the 1951 decree affects only bishops consecrated without papal appointment to be heads of dioceses.

      “Anyone who is to be promoted to the episcopacy needs the canonical appointment by which he is constituted Bishop of a such a vacant diocese.

      “In practice, it may be doubted whether only those who are to be consecrated residential Bishops are affected – that is, those who are consecrated for a diocese now in existence – or also titular bishops (who are created for an extinct see or diocese), or bishops who are consecrated for no diocese.

      “From the purpose intended by the Holy Office, the decree appears to cover only those who are consecrated as residential bishops, for this is the actual case which the Holy See intends to condemn..

      “This new type [of offense] differs from the one mentioned in canon 2370, where the canon refers to consecrations performed without apostolic mandate (described in canon 953). The new decree, on the other hand, punishes consecrations performed without pontifical appointment.

      “An appointment designates the person and bestows the title [to an office]. A mandate grants the permission to confer the consecration.”

      Regatillo’s interpretation is confirmed a reading of Pius XII’s encyclical (reproduced below), especially paragraphs 45-48.

      No traditional Catholic bishop – at least none of our acquaintance – has been consecrated to the episcopacy and then received illegal designation and title to a diocese established by the Roman Pontiff.

      Traditional Catholic bishops are consecrated for no diocese. One cannot claim, therefore, that the 1951 Decree applies to them.

Ad Apostolorum Principis

His Holiness Pope Pius XII

Encyclical on Communism and the Church in China

June 29, 1958

To Our Venerable Brethren and Beloved Children, the Archbishops, Bishops, other Local Ordinaries, and Clergy and People of China in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See.

Venerable Brethren and Beloved Children, Greetings and Apostolic Benediction.

At the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles, in the majestic Vatican Basilica, Our immediate Predecessor of deathless memory, Pius XI, duly consecrated and raised to the fullness of the priesthood, as you well know, “the flowers and . . .. latest buds of the Chinese episcopate.”[1]

  1. On that solemn occasion he added these words: “You have come, Venerable Brethren, to visit Peter, and you have received from him the shepherd’s staff, with which to undertake your apostolic journeys and to gather together your sheep. It is Peter who with great love has embraced you who are in great part Our hope for the spread of the truth of the Gospel among your people.”[2]

  1. The memory of that allocution comes to Our mind today, Venerable Brethren and dear children, as the Catholic Church in your fatherland is experiencing great suffering and loss. But the hope of our great Predecessor was not in vain, nor did it prove without effect, for new bands of shepherds and heralds of the Gospel have been joined to the first group of bishops whom Peter, living in his Successor, sent to feed those chosen flocks of the Lord.

  1. New works and religious undertakings prospered among you despite many obstacles. We too shared that hope when later We had the pleasure of establishing the hierarchy in China and saw yet wider paths opening up for the spread of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

  1. But, alas, after a few years the sky was overcast by storm clouds. On your Christian communities, many of which had been flourishing from times long past, there fell sad and sorrowful times. Missionaries, among whom were many archbishops and bishops noted for their apostolic zeal, and Our own Internuncio were driven from China, while bishops, priests, and religious men and women, together with many of the faithful, were cast into prison or incurred every kind of restraint and suffering.

  1. On that occasion We raised Our voice in sorrow, and, in Our Encyclical of January 18, 1952,Cupimus imprimis,[3] rebuked the unjust attack. In that letter, for the sake of truth and conscious of Our duty, We declared that the Catholic Church is a stranger to no people on earth, much less hostile to any. With a mother’s anxiety, she embraces all peoples in impartial charity. She seeks no earthly advantage but employs what powers she possesses to attract the souls of all men to seek what is eternal. We also stated that missionaries promote the interest of no particular nation; they come from every quarter of the earth and are united by a single love, God, and thus they seek and hope for nothing else save the spread of God’s kingdom. Thus, it is clear that their work is neither without purpose nor harmful, but beneficent and necessary since it aids Chinese priests in their Christian apostolate.

  1. And some two years later, October 7, 1954, another Encyclical Letter was addressed to you, beginningAd Sinarum gentem,[4] in which We refuted accusations made against Catholics in China. We openly declared that Catholics yielded to none (nor could they do so) in their true loyalty and love of their native country. Seeing also that there was being spread among you the doctrine of the so-called “three autonomies,” We warned – by virtue of that universal teaching authority which We exercise by divine command – that this same doctrine as understood by its authors, whether in theory or in its consequences, cannot receive the approval of a Catholic, since it turns minds away from the essential unity of the Church.

  1. In these days, however, We have to draw attention to the fact that the Church in your lands in recent years has been brought to still worse straits. In the midst of so many great sorrows it brings Us great comfort to note that in the daily attacks which you have met neither unflinching faith nor the most ardent love of the Divine Redeemer and of His Church has been wanting. You have borne witness to this faith and love in innumerable ways, of which only a small part is known to men, but for all of which you will someday receive an eternal reward from God.

  1. Nevertheless We regard it as Our duty to declare openly, with a heart filled to its depths with sorrow and anxiety, that affairs in China are, by deceit and cunning endeavor, changing so much for the worse that the false doctrine already condemned by Us seems to be approaching its final stages and to be causing its most serious damage.

  1. For by particularly subtle activity an association has been created among you to which has been attached the title of “patriotic,” and Catholics are being forced by every means to take part in it.

This association – as has often been proclaimed – was formed ostensibly to join the clergy and the faithful in love of their religion and their country, with these objectives in view: that they might foster patriotic sentiments; that they might advance the cause of international peace; that they might accept that species of socialism which has been introduced among you and, having accepted it, support and spread it; that, finally, they might actively cooperate with civil authorities in defending what they describe as political and religious freedom. And yet – despite these sweeping generalizations about defense of peace and the fatherland, which can certainly deceive the unsuspecting – it is perfectly clear that this association is simply an attempt to execute certain well defined and ruinous policies.

  1. For under an appearance of patriotism, which in reality is just a fraud, this association aims primarily at making Catholics gradually embrace the tenets of atheistic materialism, by which God Himself is denied and religious principles are rejected.

  1. Under the guise of defending peace the same association receives and spreads false rumors and accusations by which many of the clergy, including venerable bishops and even the Holy See itself, are claimed to admit to and promote schemes for earthly domination or to give ready and willing consent to exploitation of the people, as if they, with preconceived opinions, are acting with hostile intent against the Chinese nation.

  1. While they declare that it is essential that every kind of freedom exist in religious matters and that this makes mutual relations between the ecclesiastical and civil powers easier, this association in reality aims at setting aside and neglecting the rights of the Church and effecting its complete subjection to civil authorities.

  1. Hence all its members are forced to approve those unjust prescriptions by which missionaries are cast into exile, and by which bishops, priests, religious men, nuns, and the faithful in considerable numbers are thrust into prison; to consent to those measures by which the jurisdiction of many legitimate pastors is persistently obstructed; to defend wicked principles totally opposed to the unity, universality, and hierarchical constitution of the Church; to admit those first steps by which the clergy and faithful are undermined in the obedience due to legitimate bishops; and to separate Catholic communities from the Apostolic See.

  1. In order to spread these wicked principles more efficiently and to fix them in everyone’s mind, this association – which, as We have said, boasts of its patriotism – uses a variety of means including violence and oppression, numerous lengthy publications, and group meetings and congresses.

  1. In these meetings, the unwilling are forced to take part by incitement, threats, and deceit. If any bold spirit strives to defend truth, his voice is easily smothered and overcome and he is branded with a mark of infamy as an enemy of his native land and of the new society.

  1. There should also be noted those courses of instruction by which pupils are forced to imbibe and embrace this false doctrine. Priests, religious men and women, ecclesiastical students, and faithful of all ages are forced to attend these courses. An almost endless series of lectures and discussions, lasting for weeks and months, so weaken and benumb the strength of mind and will that by a kind of psychic coercion an assent is extracted which contains almost no human element, an assent which is not freely asked for as should be the case.

  1. In addition to these there are the methods by which minds are upset – by every device, in private and in public, by traps, deceits, grave fear, by so-called forced confessions, by custody in a place where citizens are forcibly “reeducated,” and those “Peoples’ Courts” to which even venerable bishops are ignominiously dragged for trial.

  1. Against methods of acting such as these, which violate the principal rights of the human person and trample on the sacred liberty of the sons of God, all Christians from every part of the world, indeed all men of good sense cannot refrain from raising their voices with Us in real horror and from uttering a protest deploring the deranged conscience of their fellow men.

  1. And since these crimes are being committed under the guise of patriotism, We consider it Our duty to remind everyone once again of the Church’s teaching on this subject.

  1. For the Church exhorts and encourages Catholics to love their country with sincere and strong love, to give due obedience in accord with natural and positive divine law to those who hold public office, to give them active and ready assistance for the promotion of those undertakings by which their native land can in peace and order daily achieve greater prosperity and further true development.

  1. The Church has always impressed on the minds of her children that declaration of the Divine Redeemer: “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”[5] We call it a declaration because these words make certain and incontestable the principle that Christianity never opposes or obstructs what is truly useful or advantageous to a country.

  1. However, if Christians are bound in conscience to render to Caesar (that is, to human authority) what belongs to Caesar, then Caesar likewise, or those who control the state, cannot exact obedience when they would be usurping God’s rights or forcing Christians either to act at variance with their religious duties or to sever themselves from the unity of the Church and its lawful hierarchy.

  1. Under such circumstances, every Christian should cast aside all doubt and calmly and firmly repeat the words with which Peter and the other Apostles answered the first persecutors of the Church: “We must obey God rather than men.”[6]

  1. With emphatic insistence, those who promote the interests of this association which claims a monopoly on patriotism, speak over and over again of peace and admonish Catholics earnestly to exert all their efforts to establish it. On the surface these words are excellent and righteous, for who deserves greater praise than the man who prepares the way to introduce and establish peace?

  1. But peace – as you well know, Venerable Brethren and beloved sons – does not consist of words alone and does not rely on changing formulas which are suitable for the moment but contradict one’s real plans and practices, which do not conform with the meaning and way of true peace but with hatred, discord, and deceit.

  1. Peace worthy of the name must be founded on the principles of charity and justice which He taught who is the “Prince of Peace,”[7] and who adopted this title as a kind of royal standard for Himself. True peace is that which the Church desires to be established: one that is stable, just, fair, and founded on right order; one which binds all together – citizens, families, and peoples – by the firm ties of the rights of the Supreme Lawgiver, and by the bonds of mutual fraternal love and cooperation.

  1. As she looks forward to and hopes for this peaceful dwelling together of nations, the Church expects each nation to preserve that degree of dignity which becomes it. For the Church, which has ever kept a friendly attitude toward the various events in your country, long ago spoke through Our late Predecessor of happy memory and expressed the desire that “full recognition be given to the legitimate aspirations and rights of the nation, which is more populous than any other, whose civilization and culture go back to the earliest times, which has, in past ages, with the development of its resources, had periods of great prosperity, and which – it may be reasonably conjectured – will become even greater in the future ages, provided it pursues justice and honor.”[8]

  1. On the other hand, as has been made known by radio and by the press, there are some – even among the ranks of the clergy – who do not shrink from casting suspicion on the Apostolic See and hint that it has evil designs toward your country.

  1. Assuming false and unjust premises, they are not afraid to take a position which would confine within a narrow scope the supreme teaching authority of the Church, claiming that there are certain questions – such as those which concern social and economic matters – in which Catholics may ignore the teachings and the directives of this Apostolic See.

  1. This opinion – it seems entirely unnecessary to demonstrate its existence – is utterly false and full of error because, as We declared a few years ago to a special meeting of Our Venerable Brethren in the episcopacy:

  1. “The power of the Church is in no sense limited to so-called ‘strictly religious matters’; but the whole matter of the natural law, its institution, interpretation and application, in so far as the moral aspect is concerned, are within its power.

  1. “By God’s appointment the observance of the natural law concerns the way by which man must strive toward his supernatural end. The Church shows the way and is the guide and guardian of men with respect to their supernatural end.”[9]

  1. This truth had already been wisely explained by Our Predecessor St. Pius X in his Encyclical LetterSingulari quadamof September 24, 1912, in which he made this statement: “All actions of a Christian man so far as they are morally either good or bad – that is, so far as they agree with or are contrary to the natural and divine law – fall under the judgment and jurisdiction of the Church.”[10]

  1. Moreover, even when those who arbitrarily set and defend these narrow limits profess a desire to obey the Roman Pontiff with regard to truths to be believed, and to observe what they call ecclesiastical directives, they proceed with such boldness that they refuse to obey the precise and definite prescriptions of the Holy See. They protest that these refer to political affairs because of a hidden meaning by the author, as if these prescriptions took their origin from some secret conspiracy against their own nation.

  1. Here We must mention a symptom of this falling away from the Church. It is a very serious matter and fills Our heart – the heart of a Father and universal Pastor of the faithful – with a grief that defies description. For those who profess themselves most interested in the welfare of their country have for some considerable time been striving to disseminate among the people the position, devoid of all truth, that Catholics have the power of directly electing their bishops. To excuse this kind of election they allege a need to look after the good souls with all possible speed and to entrust the administration of dioceses to those pastors who, because they do not oppose the communist desires and political methods, are acceptable by the civil power.

  1. We have heard that many such elections have been held contrary to all right and law and that, in addition, certain ecclesiastics have rashly dared to receive episcopal consecration, despite the public and severe warning which this Apostolic See gave those involved.

Since, therefore, such serious offenses against the discipline and unity of the Church are being committed, We must in conscience warn all that this is completely at variance with the teachings and principles on which rests the right order of the society divinely instituted by Jesus Christ our Lord.

  1. For it has been clearly and expressly laid down in the canons that it pertains to the one Apostolic See to judge whether a person is fit for the dignity and burden of the episcopacy,[11] and that complete freedom in the nomination of bishops is the right of the Roman Pontiff.[12] But if, as happens at times, some persons or groups are permitted to participate in the selection of an episcopal candidate, this is lawful only if the Apostolic See has allowed it in express terms and in each particular case for clearly defined persons or groups, the conditions and circumstances being very plainly determined.

  1. Granted this exception, it follows that bishops who have been neither named nor confirmed by the Apostolic See, but who, on the contrary, have been elected and consecrated in defiance of its express orders, enjoy no powers of teaching or of jurisdiction since jurisdiction passes to bishops only through the Roman Pontiff as We admonished in the Encyclical LetterMystici Corporisin the following words: “. . . As far as his own diocese is concerned each (bishop) feeds the flock entrusted to him as a true shepherd and rules it in the name of Christ. Yet in exercising this office they are not altogether independent but are subordinate to the lawful authority of the Roman Pontiff, although enjoying ordinary power of jurisdiction which they receive directly from the same Supreme Pontiff.”[13]

  1. And when We later addressed to you the letterAd Sinarum gentem, We again referred to this teaching in these words: “The power of jurisdiction which is conferred directly by divine right on the Supreme Pontiff comes to bishops by that same right, but only through the successor of Peter, to whom not only the faithful but also all bishops are bound to be constantly subject and to adhere both by the reverence of obedience and by the bond of unity.”[14]

  1. Acts requiring the power of Holy Orders which are performed by ecclesiastics of this kind, though they are valid as long as the consecration conferred on them was valid, are yet gravely illicit, that is, criminal and sacrilegious.

  1. To such conduct the warning words of the Divine Teacher fittingly apply: “He who enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up another way, is a thief and a robber.”[15] The sheep indeed know the true shepherd’s voice. “But a stranger they will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.”[16]

  1. We are aware that those who thus belittle obedience in order to justify themselves with regard to those functions which they have unrighteously assumed, defend their position by recalling a usage which prevailed in ages past. Yet everyone sees that all ecclesiastical discipline is overthrown if it is in any way lawful for one to restore arrangements which are no longer valid because the supreme authority of the Church long ago decreed otherwise. In no sense do they excuse their way of acting by appealing to another custom, and they indisputably prove that they follow this line deliberately in order to escape from the discipline which now prevails and which they ought to be obeying.

  1. We mean that discipline which has been established not only for China and the regions recently enlightened by the light of the Gospel, but for the whole Church, a discipline which takes its sanction from that universal and supreme power of caring for, ruling, and governing which our Lord granted to the successors in the office of St. Peter the Apostle.

  1. Well known are the terms of Vatican Council’s solemn definition: “Relying on the open testimony of the Scriptures and abiding by the wise and clear decrees both of our predecessors, the Roman Pontiffs, and the general Councils, We renew the definition of the Ecumenical Council of Florence, by virtue of which all the faithful must believe that ‘the Holy Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff hold primacy over the whole world, and the Roman Pontiff himself is the Successor of the blessed Peter and continues to be the true Vicar of Christ and head of the whole Church, the father and teacher of all Christians, and to him is the blessed Peter our Lord Jesus Christ committed the full power of caring for, ruling and governing the Universal Church….’

  1. “We teach, . . . We declare that the Roman Church by the Providence of God holds the primacy of ordinary power over all others, and that this power of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff, which is truly episcopal, is immediate. Toward it, the pastors and the faithful of whatever rite and dignity, both individually and collectively, are bound by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, not only in matters which pertain to faith and morals, but also in those which concern the discipline and government of the Church spread throughout the whole world, in such a way that once the unity of communion and the profession of the same Faith has been preserved with the Roman Pontiff, there is one flock of the Church of Christ under one supreme shepherd. This is the teaching of the Catholic truth from which no one can depart without loss of faith and salvation.”[17]

  1. From what We have said, it follows that no authority whatsoever, save that which is proper to the Supreme Pastor, can render void the canonical appointment granted to any bishop; that no person or group, whether of priests or of laymen, can claim the right of nominating bishops; that no one can lawfully confer episcopal consecration unless he has received the mandate of the Apostolic See.[18]

  1. Consequently, if consecration of this kind is being done contrary to all right and law, and by this crime the unity of the Church is being seriously attacked, an excommunication reserved specialissimo modo to the Apostolic See has been established which is automatically incurred by the consecrator and by anyone who has received consecration irresponsibly conferred.[19]

  1. What then is to be the opinion concerning the excuse added by members of the association promoting false patriotism, that they had to act as they alleged because of the need to tend to the souls in those dioceses which were then without a bishop?

  1. It is obvious that no thought is being taken of the spiritual good of the faithful if the Church’s laws are being violated, and further, there is no question of vacant sees, as they wish to argue in defense, but of episcopal sees whose legitimate rulers have been driven out or now languish in prison or are being obstructed in various ways from the free exercise of their power of jurisdiction. It must likewise be added that those clerics have been cast into prison, exiled, or removed by other means, whom the lawful ecclesiastical superiors had designated in accordance with canon law and the special powers received from the Apostolic See to act in their place in the government of the dioceses.

  1. It is surely a matter for grief that while holy bishops noted for their zeal for souls are enduring so many trials, advantage is taken of their difficulties to establish false shepherds in their place so that the hierarchical order of the Church is overthrown and the authority of the Roman Pontiff is treacherously resisted.

  1. And some have even become so arrogant that they blame the Apostolic See for these terrible and tragic events (which have certainly been deliberate accomplishments of the Church’s persecutors) even though everyone knows that the Church has been unable, in the past and at present, when such information has been needed, to obtain requisite data about qualified candidates for the episcopacy simply because she was prevented from communicating freely and safely with the dioceses of China.
  2. Venerable brethren and dear children, thus far We have told you of the anxiety with which we are moved by the errors which certain men are trying to sow among you, and by the dissensions which are being aroused. Our intention is that, enlightened and strengthened by the encouragement of your common father, you may remain steadfast and without blemish in that faith by which We are united and by which alone We shall obtain salvation.

  1. But now, following the ardent dictates of Our heart, We must tell you of the close and particular feelings of intimacy which draw Us near to you. To Our mind come those torments which rend asunder your bodies or your minds, particularly those which the most valiant witnesses of Christ are enduring, among whose number are several of Our Venerable Brethren in the episcopate. Daily at the altar We offer to the Divine Redeemer the trials of all of them, together with the prayers and sufferings of the whole Church.

  1. Be constant then and put your trust in Him according to the words: “Cast all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.”[20]

  1. He sees clearly your anguish and your torments. He particularly finds acceptable the grief of soul and the tears which many of you, bishops and priests, religious and laymen, pour forth in secret when they behold the efforts of those who are striving to subvert the Christians among you. These tears, these bodily pains and tortures, the blood of the martyrs of past and present – all will bring it about that, through the powerful intervention of Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, Queen of China, the Church in your native land will at long last regain its strength and in a calmer age, happier days will shine upon it.

  1. Relying on this hope, to you and to the flocks committed to your care We most lovingly grant in the Lord, as a token of divine gifts and a sign of Our special good will, Our Apostolic Benediction.

  1. Given at St. Peter’s, in Rome, June 29th, the feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, in the year 1958, the 20th of Our Pontificate.


  1. “Acta Apostolicae Sedis” 18 (1926) 432.
  2. Ibid.
  3. AAS 44 (1952) 153 and ff.
  4. AAS 47 (1955) 5 ff.
  5. Luke 20:25.
  6. Acts 5:29.
  7. Isaias 9:6.
  8. Cfr. message of Pius XI to the Apostolic Delegate to China, Aug. 1, 1928: “Acta Apostolicae Sedis” 20 (1928) 245.
  9. Address to Cardinals and Bishops, Nov. 2, 1954: AAS 46 (1954) 671-672. [Eng. tr.: TPS v. 1, no. 4, pp. 375 ff. – Ed.]
  10. AAS 4(1912) 658.
  11. Canon 331, sect. 3.
  12. Canon 329, sect. 2.
  13. Encyclical letter”Mystici Corporis,” June 29, 1943: AAS 35 (1943) 211-212.
  14. Encyclical epistle “Ad Sinarum gentem,” Oct. 7, 1954: AAS 47 (1955) 9.
  15. John 10:1.
  16. John 10:4-5.
  17. Vatican Council, session IV, chap. 3; Coll. Lac., Vll, p.484.
  18. Canon 953.
  19. Decree of Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, April 9, 1951: AAS 43 (1951) pp. 217-18.
  20. 1 Peter 5:7.

Validity of the Thuc (Sedevacantist) Consecrations

Original Post on Traditional Mass

The Validity of the Thuc Consecrations

Rev. Anthony Cekada

During a conversation with Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1980, I hinted about my worries over finding a bishop after his death who would ordain traditional Catholic priests and confirm our children.

      The archbishop — at that time he hadn’t indicated whether he would one day consecrate bishops — tactfully replied that the question worried him, too, and that “Deus providebit” — God will provide. He added, with one of his trademark French chuckles, that each time he had a coughing or sneezing fit in the seminary chapel at Ecne, he could almost hear the 80 seminarians silently change their prayer to just one fervent petition: “God, let him live — at least till he ordains me!”

      The amusing anecdote highlights a serious issue: As traditional Catholics, the sacraments are the center of our spiritual life and the key to our salvation. We know that if we want to hear Mass, receive Holy Communion, have our sins absolved and be fortified by the Last Rites, we need priests. And we know that only bishops can make priests.

      Where, then, can we go to find bishops who will ordain traditional Catholic priests, and thus ensure that the traditional Latin Mass will continue to be celebrated at our altars?

      The laity and clergy connected with the Society of St. Pius X (nervous seminarians in particular) need worry no longer. On 30 June 1988 Abp. Lefebvre and the retired bishop of Campos, Brazil, Antonio de Castro-Mayer, consecrated four bishops for the Society of St. Pius X. These bishops have since ordained more priests for the Society and recently consecrated a bishop to succeed Bp. Mayer in Campos.

      The Lefebvre bishops limit their episcopal ministrations only to those chapels and clergy who accept unquestioningly all the Society’s theological opinions and who surrender legal control of their property to the Society. Likewise, these bishops will ordain to the priesthood only those seminarians who swear fealty to the Society’s positions.

      Many traditional priests disagree with the Society’s positions and policies. We can hardly look to a Lefebvre bishop if we want children from our chapels to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. Still less could we found a seminary to train the clergy who will one day succeed us, and then imagine that the Lefebvre bishops would ordain to the priesthood the seminarians we would train.

      But Lefebvre bishops are not the only option. In the U.S. at present there are six traditional Catholic clergymen who are commonly referred to as the “Thuc” bishops. Unlike the Lefebvre bishops, the Thuc bishops are not connected in a single organization. They operate independently of each other (like most traditional priests), though some of them do co-operate together in certain apostolic works.

      Like traditional Catholic priests, too, the six Thuc bishops are a diverse lot. Five are older men who were trained and ordained to the priesthood before the disastrous post-Vatican II changes hit; one (a younger man) received a traditional formation and was ordained a priest in the old rite well after Vatican II. Three were diocesan priests; three were members of different religious orders. Four of the bishops graciously cooperate with traditional Catholic chapels and clergy outside their own particular milieu; two bishops are definitely off in separate orbits. Of the six bishops, one has a reputation as a notorious troublemaker, another is not particularly well known one way or the other, and the other four (two of them recently consecrated) are well regarded in the circles where they pursued their apostolate, either through their writings or their sacramental ministry.

      The Thuc bishops in the U.S. all trace their episcopal consecrations to one of two men:

  •      Bishop M.L. Gurard des Lauriers OP, formerly a professor at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome and at the Society of St. Pius X’s seminary in Ecne, Switzerland (he was one of my teachers), and the author of the famous Ottaviani Intervention.
  •      Bishop Moises Carmona Rivera, a diocesan priest from Acapulco who for years offered the traditional Mass for sizable groups of the faithful in various parts of Mexico.

      In 1981 Bps. Gurard and Carmona were consecrated bishops by one man: Archbishop Pierre Martin Ng-dinh-Thuc (†1984), former Archbishop of Hu, Vietnam.

      Abp. Thuc, appointed by Pius XI and consecrated a bishop in 1938, founded the Diocese of Vinh-long and was named Archbishop of Hu in 1960. In 1963, while Abp. Thuc was in Rome for the Second Vatican Council, his brother, Ng-dinh-Diem, President of South Vietnam, was overthrown and murdered in a coup. Unable to return to Vietnam and treated by the Vatican as an outcast, Abp. Thuc eked out a meager existence serving as a substitute Assistant Pastor in various parishes near Rome.

      His interest in the traditional movement appears to have begun in early 1975 when he visited Abp. Lefebvre’s seminary in Ecne, Switzerland. The event would turn out to be a mixed blessing. There Abp. Thuc struck up an acquaintance with Father M. Revaz, former Chancellor of the Swiss Diocese of Sion and professor of Canon Law at the Ecne seminary. Later in 1975, Father Revaz convinced Abp. Thuc that the solution to the Church’s problems were to be found in alleged “Marian apparitions” at Palmar de Troya, Spain, and he urged the Archbishop to consecrate bishops for the Palmar supporters, who wished to preserve the traditional Mass. Abp. Thuc agreed and performed the consecrations in December. The next year, however, Abp. Thuc repudiated his connections with the Palmar group.[1]

      Traditional Catholics who discuss Abp. Thuc’s subsequent activities in the traditional movement seem to fall into two opposing camps. The first group canonizes him by portraying him as a valiant hero who consistently rejected all the errors of the post-Conciliar Church. The second group insults him by painting him as an old fool who lacked enough presence of mind to confer a valid sacrament.

      Both groups are wrong. On one hand, while Abp. Thuc did say the traditional Mass, he was hardly another Athanasius. His actions and his statements on the situation in the Church were, like Abp. Lefebvre’s, often contradictory and mystifying. And like Abp. Lefebvre, he too apparently accepted a deal with the Vatican and later changed his mind. On the other hand, theological zig-zagging and errors of practical judgement prove only that a given archbishop (take your pick) is human and fallible. They do not prove that he’s lost the tiny mental minimum which the Church says makes his sacraments valid.

      But we’ve digressed a bit. Our purpose here is not to review the ins and outs of Abp. Thuc’s career. Rather, we want to determine whether or not the six Thuc bishops in the U.S. are validly-consecrated bishops — that is, whether or not they possess the sacramental power possessed by all Catholic bishops to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation, to ordain priests who are real priests, and to consecrate other bishops who are real bishops.

      This sacramental power, called the Apostolic Succession, passes from one Catholic bishop to all the bishops he consecrates. They in turn pass this sacramental power on to all the bishops they consecrate, and so on.

      To pursue our inquiry, therefore, we must look to the episcopal consecrations of the two prelates to whom the six Thuc bishops in the U.S. trace their consecrations: Bps. Gurard and Carmona. If the episcopal consecrations of the latter two must be regarded as valid, then the line of orders which proceeds from them is likewise valid.

      Now, as we shall demonstrate below, the pertinent facts and the pronouncements of popes, canonists (canon law experts) and Catholic moral theologians all lead to one unavoidable conclusion: we are obliged to regard as valid the episcopal consecrations Abp. P.M. Ng-dinh-Thuc conferred on M.L. Gurard des Lauriers and Moises Carmona Rivera.

      Since the consecrations of Bps. Gurard and Carmona were valid, we are likewise obliged to regard as valid the line of orders which proceeds from them, and thus to hold that the priests ordained in this line are truly priests and that the bishops consecrated in this line are truly bishops.


      In 1982 two Americans made their debuts as Thuc bishops in the U.S. The circumstances surrounding their appearance, put mildly, did not bode well for the future.

      One of them was a priest then relatively new to the traditional movement, and the details of how or why he had been selected for episcopal consecration were never entirely clear. The other all but jumped through hoops pursuing his miter. As a priest in February 1982, he boasted of his support for John Paul II. Shortly thereafter, word of the Thuc bishops and their hard line against John Paul II began to spread. In June he embraced the sedevacantist position. In August the other American consecrated him a bishop.

      Thereafter, the two bishops cranked out denunciations, split several chapels, issued “excommunications,” pretended to set up dioceses, and otherwise pursued the sort of follow-me-or-die program so endemic among traditional clergy.

      In January 1983 I published a lengthy article exposing these goings-on, together with a warts-and-all portrait of Abp. Thuc. I did not examine the issue of whether the consecrations were valid, but noted that “further research would be needed to ascertain what theologians and canonists consider sufficient evidence for validity in such a case.”[2]

      Absent such research, I was personally inclined to view the consecrations as doubtful. So too my fellow priests in the Northeast. Moreover, even after we had been expelled from the Society of St. Pius X in April 1983, the activities of the two American Thuc bishops rendered the idea of cooperating with them morally impossible. And there the matter rested for about two years.

      In 1985 one of my confrres, the Rev. Donald J. Sanborn, suggested that our group approach Don Antonio de Castro-Mayer, the retired Bishop of Campos, Brazil, to see if he’d be willing to ordain priests for us, or at least offer some advice. This prelate had taken a strong stand against the New Mass, and his position on John Paul II was said to be much harder than Abp. Lefebvre’s.

      Father Sanborn visited Campos in April 1985 and spoke at great length with Bp. Mayer. The bishop, it turned out, confined his apostolate to Brazil.

      When Father Sanborn broached the topic of who could ordain priests for us, Bp. Mayer said: “Go to Gurard!”

      Father Sanborn said that he doubted the validity of Bp. Gurard’s episcopal consecration. The bishop replied: “If it’s valid for Gurard, it’s valid for me.” Father Sanborn explained some of his hesitations. Bp. Mayer answered: “Gurard is the most qualified person in the world to determine if the consecration was valid.”

      On his return, Father Sanborn suggested that some of us research the principles moral theologians employ to determine whether an episcopal consecration is valid. Since I was skeptical of the consecrations, I volunteered to work along with him.

      The investigation turned out to be a formidable task. Since 1985 Father Sanborn and I have spent between us at least a thousand hours on research, much of it in the theology and canon law sections of Catholic university and seminary libraries throughout the U.S.[3]

      The conclusion which began to emerge was, I admit, contrary to my initial expectation. There are no “special” or “extra” proofs which must be made before one can say that an episcopal consecration is valid. Canonists and theologians treat a consecration as they would any other sacrament. Once it’s been performed, it’s regarded as valid, and the “burden of proof” (if any) rests on those who attack its validity.

      At a September 1988 priests’ meeting, Father Sanborn distributed a brief internal report to the priests on the theological principles to be applied. Father concluded that we had to regard the consecrations as valid.

      Overall, I found the report convincing. In particular, Father’s comments corresponded with what I had uncovered in Pope Leo XIII’s Bull Apostolicae Curae.

      A heated discussion ensued. Later that day, I spoke with the Rev. Clarence Kelly, the head of our organization. I mentioned that Leo XIII’s pronouncement seemed to demolish my objections to the validity of the consecrations — and his as well. He replied: “We can’t say that the consecrations [of the Thuc bishops] are valid — or some of our priests will want to get involved with them.”

      At this point I concluded that the arguments against the validity of the consecrations might be based on something other than objective norms of sacramental theology.

      After I left the Society of St. Pius V in July 1989, Father Sanborn and I continued to compare notes on our research. What follows is the product of our collaborative efforts. The lion’s share of credit belongs to Father Sanborn, who tracked down theological sources and papal decrees with fierce determination.


      We begin our inquiry by asking two simple questions:

  •      On 7 May 1981 in Toulon, France, did Abp. Thuc perform the rite of episcopal consecration for Gurard des Lauriers using the traditional Catholic rite?
  •      On 17 October 1981 in Toulon, France, did Abp. Thuc perform the rite of episcopal consecration for Moises Carmona using the traditional Catholic rite?

      The answer to both questions is yes.

      But note that we’ve used a clumsy phrase. We’ve asked if Abp. Thuc performed the rite of episcopal consecration for two people, rather than asking if he consecrated them. Why?

      To call attention to an important distinction between two things:

  •      The fact of a sacrament — i.e., did a ceremony take place? and
  •      The validity of a sacrament — i.e., did the ceremony work?

      Catholic canonists and moralists such as Fathers Cappello,[4] Davis,[5] Noldin,[6] Wanenmacher,[7] and Ayrinhac[8] take such a distinction for granted. So, too, do Church tribunals convened to rule on the validity of a marriage[9] or an ordination.[10] Facts first, validity later.

      In this section, therefore, we will not address the issue of validity (Did the consecrations work?), but merely the issue of fact (Did the ceremony take place; did Abp. Thuc perform the rite?)

      Clearly, the Thuc consecrations took place. But since a few traditional priests have claimed that fact of the consecrations is not “proven” or “certain,” or can’t be “acknowledged,” we’ll take a few moments to prove the obvious.


A. Legal Limbo

      When things were normal in the Church, it was easy to ascertain the fact that an episcopal consecration took place. You went to someone with authority. He looked up the particulars in an official register. If an authorized church official had duly recorded the consecration in the register, church law regarded it as a fact — “proven” in the eyes of church law. The same goes for baptisms, confirmations and priestly ordinations.

      If these official registers were lost or accidentally destroyed, you took another route. You brought the evidence to someone with authority — a diocesan bishop or a judge in a Vatican tribunal, say. The official examined the evidence and issued a decree stating that so-and-so had received the sacrament.

      These officials enjoyed a legal power called ordinary jurisdiction — authority, deriving ultimately from the pope, to command, make laws, punish and judge. Part of that authority consisted in the power to establish in the eyes of church law the fact that a given sacramental act took place — to function as a sacramental counterpart to the Registrar of Deeds.

      In both cases — that of either official registers or hierarchical decrees — someone with ordinary jurisdiction was exercising his power. He judged he had sufficient legal evidence that, say, a particular ordination had been performed. He entered it into the official register, or issued a decree. The fact of the ordination was then established before the law.

      In contrast to this, consider my own ordination. It’s a fact that Archbishop Lefebvre ordained me to the priesthood in Ecne, Switzerland on 29 June 1977. But that fact has not been legally established. It’s not recorded in the ordination register of the Diocese of Sion, as church law would require. Should normalcy return to the Church in my lifetime, I’d go to someone with ordinary jurisdiction. He would then rule on the evidence and issue a decree which would legallyestablish the fact of my ordination.

      Where does this leave the fact of the Thuc consecrations? In the same place it leaves my ordination, the Lefebvre consecrations and all sacraments traditional Catholic clergy confer: in a sort of legal limbo. Since no one in the traditional movement possesses ordinary jurisdiction, no one has the power to rule on the legal evidence that a particular sacrament was performed and then establish it as a fact before church law. That’s a function of church officials who have received their authority from a pope.

      Nevertheless, we traditional Catholics can and do establish the fact that we have conferred or received sacraments. The means we use is moral certitude, a simple concept we’ll apply to the Thuc consecrations, just as we do to any other sacrament.

B. Documentation

      Unlike the Lefebvre consecrations in 1988, the Thuc consecrations received little or no publicity in the United States. Nevertheless, it’s easy to document the fact that the ceremonies took place. Here are some sources:

  •      Published photographs of Bp. Gurard’s 7 May 1981 consecration.[11]
  •      Published photographs of Bp. Carmona’s and Bp. Adolfo Zamora’s 17 October 1981 consecration.[12]
  •      Accompanying captions stating that Abp. Thuc performed the consecrations according to The Roman Pontifical (1908 edition).[13]
  •      A February 1988 interview, conducted under oath, with Dr. Kurt Hiller, who was present at both consecrations and who held the ritual book (The Roman Pontifical) for Abp. Thuc as he performed the rite of consecration.[14]
  •      A sworn affidavit of Dr. Eberhard Heller, who was also present at both consecrations, attesting that Bps. Gurard, Carmona and Zamora were consecrated bishops by Abp. Thuc and that “The consecrations followed The Roman Pontifical (Rome: 1908).”[15]
  •      A letter from Josef Cardinal Ratzinger to Abp. Thuc, which speaks of the Vatican’s “well-founded inquiry” into the consecrations, and which specifically notes that Abp. Thuc consecrated Gurard, Carmona and Zamora.[16]
  •      A 1983 Vatican statement which mentions by name those who were consecrated, and (as one would expect) denounces the consecrations.[17]
  •      A published letter of Abp. Thuc, dated 11 July 1984, in which he acknowledges that he conferred the episcopate in 1981 on “several priests, namely Revs. M.L. Guerard des Lauriers, O.P., Moses Carmona, and Adolfo Zamora.”[18]
  •      A published interview with Bp. Gurard in which he attests that Abp. Thuc consecrated him on 7 May 1981, that “the consecration was valid,” that “the traditional rite was followed integrally (except for the reading of a Roman mandate),” and that “Abp. Thuc and I had the intention to do what the Church does.”[19]
  •      An interview with Bp. Gurard where he again affirmed he had been consecrated on 7 May 1981, and that the rite was followed integrally.[20]
  •      An interview with the Rev. Nol Barbara, conducted under oath, in which Father Barbara stated that he visited Abp. Thuc in 1982, and that Abp. Thuc then acknowledged that he did, in fact, consecrate Bps. Gurard and Carmona.[21]

      All these sources, of course, agree on the key issue: the fact that Abp. Thuc performed the rite of episcopal consecration for M.L. Gurard des Lauriers on 7 May 1981, and again for Moises Carmona and Adolpho Zamora on 17 October 1981.

      The statements of Dr. Heller, Dr. Hiller, Bp. Gurard and the photo captions (written by Dr. Heller), moreover, are in accord on another key issue: the fact that Abp. Thuc used the traditional rite to perform the consecrations.

  1. An Established Fact

      Faced with this documentation, the reader sensibly concludes that it is a fact that Abp. Thuc performed these consecrations and a fact that he used the traditional Catholic rite. Why? The documentation all points to the same basic facts. The parties involved never changed their stories on these facts. It “rings true.”

      The “sound of truth” we hear, when considering facts about this or any other matter, results from moral certitude, a common-sense standard we employ all the time.

      Catholic moral theologians say that moral certitude occurs when we realize it’s impossible for us to be wrong about a particular fact, since the opposite of that fact is so unlikely that we know it would be imprudent to believe it.[22] It therefore involves considering the opposite of something to see how likely it is.

      An example* will help here: I didn’t see Elvis Presley die. But his wife, the doctor, the sheriff and the undertaker all say he died. I then consider the opposite: that Elvis lives and stalks the aisles of my supermarket. But that would mean that the four people who saw his dead body and who say he’s dead are all liars, involved in a massive conspiracy. This is all so unlikely that I couldn’t possibly believe it. I’ve therefore arrived at moral certitude about a fact: Elvis — “The King”— is indeed dead.

      To arrive at moral certitude about the Thuc consecrations, therefore, we consider whether the opposite of the evidence we have is likely enough to be believable: i.e., that Abp. Thuc did not perform either Bp. Gurard’s or Bp. Carmona’s consecration, or that, if he did, he did not use the traditional rite.

      This presupposes scenarios like the following: (1) That Abp. Thuc, Bp. Gurard, Bp. Carmona, Bishop Zamora (now deceased), and two arch-sedevacantist laymen lied, faked photos on two occasions, committed perjury in two instances, and engaged in a complex and well-orchestrated conspiracy. (2) That the six different people most directly involved were completely mistaken about the fact that two episcopal consecrations took place. (3) That Gurard, Carmona and Zamora subsequently conferred ordinations and episcopal consecrations they knew were null and void. (4) That Gurard, Carmona and Zamora, aided and abetted by Drs. Hiller and Heller, allowed Abp. Thuc to consecrate them bishops with some rite other than the traditional Catholic rite. (5) That the persons involved with the consecrations also deceived Vatican officials about the event, or got the Vatican to participate in the conspiracy.

      These scenarios, obviously, are preposterous and absurd, and no evidence whatsoever exists to support them. But they’re the only kind of theories someone can put forward if he wants to say that we have no moral certitude about the fact of the Thuc consecrations. And if someone finds these alternatives believable or likely, all I can tell him is: Keep your eyes open in the supermarket.

      This leaves us with moral certitude about the fact of the Thuc consecrations, certitude “which excludes all fear of error and every serious or prudent doubt.”[23] This is all that theologians require for any sacrament. Since we have no serious or prudent ground to doubt that the consecrations took place and that the old rite was used, we must regard both occurrences as established facts.


      We now turn to the question which occasioned this study:

  •      Are we obliged to regard the Thuc consecrations as valid — i.e, as having worked?

      Based on the principles church law and moral theology apply to all the sacraments, we are obliged to answer yes.

      To understand why, we have but to recall how little is required to perform a valid episcopal consecration, and how church law and moral theologians consider those requirements as met in a given case, unless there is positive evidence to the contrary.

  1. A Recipe for Validity

      Among the many beautiful ceremonies of the Catholic Church, the Rite of Episcopal Consecration is surely the most splendid and the most complex. It takes place on the feast of an Apostle, usually before a large gathering of the faithful. In its most solemn form, the bishop who performs the rite is assisted by two other bishops (called “Co-Consecrators”), 11 priests, 20 servers and 3 Masters of Ceremonies.[24] To perform an episcopal consecration observing all the elaborate ceremonial directions takes about four hours.

      On the other hand, to perform an episcopal consecration validly takes about 15 seconds.

      This is about the length of time it takes a bishop to impose his hands on a priest’s head and recite the 16-word formula the Church requires for validity.

      The foregoing may startle the lay reader. But the case is akin to something we all learned in catechism class. All you need to baptize someone validly is ordinary water and the short formula (I baptize thee, etc.). It was so simple that even a Moslem or a Jew could get it right if someone really wanted to be baptized. And once the water was poured and the short formula was recited, you’d be just as validly baptized, and just as much a Christian as if the pope himself had done it in St. Peter’s Basilica.

      The recipe the Church lays down for a valid episcopal consecration is equally simple. Other than a validly-consecrated bishop to perform the rite and a validly-ordained priest who intends to receive consecration, there are just three ingredients essential for validity:

      (1) The imposition of hands by the consecrating bishop (technically called the matter of the sacrament).

      (2) The essential 16-word formula recited by the consecrating bishop (technically called the form of the sacrament).[25]

      (3) A minimal intention on the consecrating bishop’s part “to do what the Church does” (called ministerial intention).

      Though all the ceremonies prescribed in the rite should be observed, the three foregoing elements are all that is required for an episcopal consecration to be valid.

  1. Burden of Disproof

      Once you’re certain of the fact that a real bishop performed a consecration using a Catholic rite, is it then necessary to prove positively that the bishop did not omit one of these essential elements during the ceremony?

      No. The mere fact that a bishop used a Catholic rite is of itself sufficient evidence for validity, which thereafter requires no further proof. Validity becomes a “given,” which can only be disproved. And this can only be achieved by demonstrating that one of the ingredients essential to validity was either absent (or probably absent) when the ceremony was performed.

      This applies to all the sacraments and is evident from:

  1.    Ordinary Pastoral Practice. Day-to-day sacramental record-keeping takes for granted that the minister of a sacrament fulfilled the essential requirements for validity. Official baptismal and ordination registers say nothing whatsoever about technical terms such as “matter,” “form” or “ministerial intention.” And sacramental certificates merely state that so-and-so received a sacrament “with all necessary and fitting ceremonies and solemnities,” or simply “according to the rite of the Holy Roman Church.” They say nothing more, because church law requires nothing more. Such sacraments are regarded as valid without further proof.
  2.    Canonists. Canonists speak of “the queen of presumptions, which holds the act or contract as valid, until invalidity is proved.”[26] It is applied to the sacraments in the following way: If someone goes before a church court to challenge the validity of a Catholic baptism,[27] marriage[28] or ordination,[29] the burden of proof is on himHe must show that something essential was lacking when the sacrament was conferred.
  3.    Church Law and Moral Theology. These sources forbid readministering a sacrament conditionally unless there is a “prudent” or “positive” doubt about validity. (See IV.A below.) As an example of a doubt which would not fall into this category, the Dominican moral theologian Fanfani speaks of a priest who does not recall whether he recited the essential sacramental formula. “He should repeat nothing,” says Fanfani. “Indeed, he sins if he does so — for everything that is done must be supposed to have been done correctly, unless the contrary is positively established.[30] That the essential parts of the rite were performed is once again simply taken for granted.

      The canonist Gasparri (later a cardinal and compiler of the 1917 Code of Canon Law) offers a general principle: “…an act, especially one as solemn as an ordination, must be regarded as valid, as long as invalidity would not be clearly demonstrated.”[31]

  1.    Even Unusual Cases. Canonists and moralists even extend these principles to cases where someone other than the usual Catholic minister employs a Catholic rite to confer a sacrament. If a midwife who says she performed an emergency baptism is serious, trustworthy and instructed in how to perform baptisms, says the theologian Merkelbach, “there is no reason to doubt seriously the validity of a baptism.”[32]

      Finally, so strongly does the Church hold for the validity of a sacrament administered according to a Catholic rite, that she extends the principle not only to Catholic clergymen, but also even to schismatics. Thus ordinations and episcopal consecrations received from Orthodox bishops, and from Old Catholic bishops in Holland, Germany and Switzerland “are to be regarded as valid, unless in a particular case an essential defect were to be admitted.”[33]

      The foregoing, of course, reflects the Church’s reasonableness. She doesn’t ask us to disprove convoluted negative accusations — “Prove positively to me that you did not omit to do what you were supposed to do to make the sacrament valid.” Otherwise, hordes of specially-qualified witnesses would have to be trained to do an independent validity check each time a priest conferred a sacrament.

      It is easy to see, therefore, why a sacrament administered with a Catholic rite must be regarded as valid till the contrary is positively established.

  1. Validity

      The requirements for a valid episcopal consecration, then, are minimal. And when a Catholic rite is employed for this or any other sacrament, ordinary pastoral practice, canonists, church law and moral theologians require no further proof for a sacrament’s validity — even when it is administered by a midwife or a schismatic. Validity, rather must be disproved.

      When we turn to consider the consecrations of Bp. Gurard and Bp. Carmona, three key facts are absolutely certain:

      (1) Abp. Thuc was a validly-consecrated bishop.

      (2) He performed the rite of episcopal consecration for Bp. Gurard on 7 May 1981 and for Bp. Carmona on 17 October 1981.

      (3) Abp. Thuc employed a Catholic rite for both consecrations.

      We have a validly-consecrated bishop. He performed the rite of episcopal consecration. He used a Catholic rite. No further proof is needed. Therefore:

      We are obliged to regard the episcopal consecrations Abp. P.M. Ng-dinh-Thuc conferred on M.L. Gurard des Lauriers and Moises Carmona Rivera as valid.


      As noted above, Bishop Antonio de Castro-Mayer accepted the validity of Bp. Gurard’s consecration. Likewise the Papal Nuncio to the U.S., Archbishop Pio Laghi. While condemning Gurard’s consecration as “illicit,” he too acknowledged that it was “valid.”[34] A query to either prelate about Bp. Carmona’s consecration presumably would have prompted similar responses.

      Although churchmen as far apart theologically as the traditionalist prelate of Campos and John Paul II’s official representative in the U.S. can agree on the validity of the consecrations, a few traditional Catholic priests remained wary. Some honestly found certain issues puzzling. Others aggressively denounced the validity of the consecrations as “doubtful.”

      We’ll deal with the latter group here. Each of their objections has been based on one of two things: (A) A gratuitous assertion which theologians would characterize as a “negative doubt,” which as such cannot be employed to impugn the validity of a sacrament. (B) A supposed “requirement” of church law or moral theology which turned out to have been invented by the objectors.

  1. “Negative” Doubts

      The only way a sacrament can truly be said to be doubtful is if you establish a positive (or prudent) doubt about its validity. A doubt is positive when it possesses a basis which is clearly objective and firmly rooted in reality. In the case of a sacrament, it must be founded on solid evidence that something essential to validity was probably omitted.

      To establish a positive doubt about the validity of the Thuc consecrations, therefore, you’d have to prove that, when the rite was performed, a substantial defect either did occur or probably occurred in one of the following essential elements:

  •      The imposition of hands.
  •      The essential 16-word formula.
  •      The minimal intention of the bishop “to do what the Church does.”

      Now no one who was present at the Thuc consecrations has ever said one of these defects occurred.

      Absent any evidence whatsoever for such a defect, the objectors raise personal speculations, musings, conjectures, hypotheses and — a favorite device — rhetorical questions about what may or may not, or possibly could or could not, have occurred during the “essential 15 seconds” of the consecration.

      The chief characteristic of such objections, however, is that they are subjective — i.e., rooted not in a knowledge of what occurred during the rite, but in the objector’s lack of personal knowledge of what occurred. Such objections are what moral theologians call negative (or imprudent) doubts. And negative doubts don’t render a sacrament “doubtful.”

      We’ll limit ourselves to a few of the more frequently-repeated negative doubts.

Objection 1. What if something essential were omitted and we don’t know about it? Wouldn’t it be terrible? Shouldn’t we want to be really sure? Isn’t it prudent to wonder? Isn’t it prudent to doubt? Don’t we need more proof? etc.

      Here we see a whole herd of negative doubts thundering along at full gallop. Observe how the procedure works: Lots of questions. Oodles of dark hints. But no pertinent and verifiable facts. And no underlying principle drawn from canon law or moral theology.

      The response is simple: Catholic canonists, moral theologians and popes have told us what makes the validity of a sacrament morally certain. These are the prescriptions we must follow. We are engaged in making up our own religion when we pretend we can ask for more.

Objection 2. I question whether Abp. Thuc “intended to do what the Church does,” so the consecrations must be considered doubtful.

  •      A priest or bishop who confers a sacrament doesn’t have to “prove” that he intends to do what the Church does. He is automatically presumed to intend what the rite means. This is certain theological doctrine, taught by the Church. And to deny it is “theologically rash.”[35] Leo XIII specifically confirmed the principle with regard to Holy Orders when he said that someone who seriously and correctly uses the matter and form “is for that very reason deemed to have intended to do what the Church does.”[36]

      We quoted above the canonist Gasparri’s statement that an ordination must be regarded as valid till invalidity is demonstrated. He also says that a bishop who confers Holy Orders is never presumed to have the intention of not ordaining someone as long as the contrary is not proved. For no one should be presumed to be evil, he adds, unless he is proven as such.[37]

      Attacking Abp. Thuc’s ministerial intention, therefore, is impermissible.

  •      The mere attempt to do so, moreover, betrays an epic spirit of presumption. Investigating and trying cases where ordinations are impugned for lack of intention was the job of a Vatican court called the Holy Office. The pope himself then specifically confirmed the court’s decision.

      Floating traditional clergy, therefore, have neither the right nor the authority to attack the ministerial intention of a validly-consecrated Catholic archbishop. The very idea is silly.

Objection 3. I think Abp. Thuc was insane or senile, so the consecrations must be considered doubtful.

      This is a variant of Objection 2, since it attacks Abp. Thuc’s ministerial intention. From what we’ve said above, it’s likewise impermissible.

      The objectors, please note, produced not even one witness or document to support their charge that Abp. Thuc was “insane” or “senile” when the consecrations took place. Merely by raising this issue, of course, they hint that there might be a factual basis for it: Prove he was not insane or senile. It’s like saying: Prove you don’t beat your wife.

  •      The minimum “level” of intention required to confer a sacrament validly is virtual intention. A lengthy discussion of this technical concept isn’t possible here. All we need say is that virtual intention guarantees that a sacrament is valid, even if the priest or bishop is internally distracted before and during the whole sacramental rite.

      Virtual intention, says the theologian Coronata, “is certainly present in someone who regularly performs sacramental actions.”[38] The mere act of putting on vestments and going to the altar is considered sufficient evidence for virtual intention.

      Abp. Thuc celebrated the traditional Mass regularly before and after the consecrations — and very devoutly, said one of my lay friends who once witnessed him do so. It’s ridiculous to imply that, when he vested and performed the three-hour-long episcopal consecrations, Abp. Thuc suddenly couldn’t manage the bare minimum of a virtual intention.

  •      Those who actually knew him dismiss these accusations anyway. Dr. Eberhard Heller, who was present at both consecrations, attested under oath that Abp. Thuc “conferred the consecrations in full possession of his intellectual powers.”[39] Bp. Gurard likewise stated Abp. Thuc was of “sound mind,” “perfectly lucid,”[40] and “had the intention to do what the Church does.”[41] The Rev. Thomas Fouhy, a traditional priest from New Zealand, spent two days in Toulon, France with Abp. Thuc in 1983. The archbishop, Father Fouhy related, was “nobody’s fool,” and discussed with competence various issues in theology and canon law. He even regaled Father Fouhy with details about his trip to New Zealand in 1963. Father Fouhy added that there was no doubt that Abp. Thuc was competent.[42]

      So too, even the Archbishop’s enemies in the traditional movement. The Revs. Nol Barbara and Gustave Dalmasure visited Abp. Thuc separately in January 1982. Both opposed the consecrations and are still critical of Abp. Thuc. But both still attest that he was in perfect possession of his faculties.

      Father Barbara says that the validity of the consecrations is beyond question. He believes the Conciliar Church started the rumor attacking Abp. Thuc’s sanity.[43]

  •      I received photocopies of four documents written in Abp. Thuc’s own hand. All originated after the consecrations. His handwriting is clear, firm and more legible than my own. The documents are clearly the work of a man who is coherent and whose competency to confer a valid sacrament is unassailable.

       One document is a 30 July 1982 letter to Bp. Gurard forwarding some correspondence. Two are declarations: one, that he broke off connections with the Palmar de Troya group,[44] the other, declaring his position on the vacancy of the Holy See.[45]

      The last document is a 1982 letter (in Latin) responding to an inquiry from Bp. Gurard. Several months after his consecration, Bp. Gurard heard that Abp. Thuc had once previously concelebrated the Novus Ordo on Holy Thursday, 1981 with the Bishop of Toulon. The Archbishop admits it was true — but closes with this touching phrase: “I hope that God has not judged me so cruelly, for I erred in good faith.”[46]

      A man who could write such a statement clearly had all his wits about him.

  •      We therefore draw the appropriate conclusion: Catholic teaching forbids assaults on Abp. Thuc’s sacramental intention. And, in light of statements from the Archbishop and those who knew him, Catholic moral principles dictate that one cease repeating the baseless calumny that he was incapable of conferring a valid sacrament.

  1. Non-Existent “Requirements”

      Time and again as we pursued our research, those who objected to the Thuc consecrations told Father Sanborn and me that “the Church requires” X or Y for an episcopal consecration to be considered valid, that the consecrations didn’t meet the requirement, and that they were therefore “doubtful.”

      Most of these objections were somehow linked to the fact that, apart from Abp. Thuc and the bishops-to-be, only two laymen were present at the ceremonies.

      Each time we’d eventually discover that the supposed “requirement” originated not with the Church, but merely with the objectors. Here is a sampler:

Objection 1. Without a signed certificate, an episcopal consecration is doubtful.

  •      There is no church law which says that failure to issue a certificate automatically renders an episcopal consecration doubtful. Moral certitude about the fact a sacrament took place is all that’s required to regard it as valid. (See II.A,C above.)
  •      In any case, the diocesan ordination register, and not the certificate from the consecrating bishop, is the official record of an episcopal consecration.

Objection 2. The consecrations were a “secret” fact, rather than a “notorious” fact. The burden of proof for a secret fact rests on those who assert it, and since that burden of proof has not been met, the consecrations are doubtful.

      This objection is pure mumbo-jumbo.

  •      Nowhere does church law say that an episcopal consecration performed with only two laymen present is a “secret” fact or that such a consecration is doubtful. The objectors made the rule up.
  •      Two witnesses suffice to make an act legally “public” under church law anyway. Marriage by its nature, for instance, is always considered a public sacrament. But it can be contracted behind closed doors (to avoid embarrassment, say) in front of two witnesses. Their presence makes it legally “public,” even though the fact that the sacrament took place is not broadcast far and wide.
  •      The references to “secret” and “notorious” facts are drawn from rules of evidence in canon law which apply only when two adverse parties are fighting out a lawsuit, Perry Mason-style, before an ecclesiastical judge in a church trial.

      Obviously, the court’s not in session. It won’t be in session till the hierarchy of the Church is restored. The court’s power to rule on evidence, meanwhile, hasn’t passed by default to the objectors.

      And even if the court were in session, the objectors would be thrown out of the courtroom: Under church law, only three classes of people can challenge the validity of an ordination or consecration.[47] All other persons, says the canonist Cappello, lack the right to accuse.[48]

 Objection 3. Without “qualified witnesses” an episcopal consecration is doubtful.

  •      No church law prescribes that witnesses, qualified or otherwise, must be present at an episcopal consecration — still less, that a consecration is doubtful without them. Again, the objectors fabricated a requirement out of thin air.

 Objection 4. Without at least two priests present to attest that it was performed validly, an episcopal consecration is doubtful.

      This “requirement” doesn’t exist, and is directly contradicted by acts authorized by the Holy See.

  •      The function of the priest-assistants is not, as the objectors seem to think, to attest to the validity of a consecration. Pope Benedict XIV says clearly that the reason for the priest-assistants is to add solemnity to the liturgical act and to carry out the prescriptions of the rites.[49]
  •      In mission countries, episcopal consecrations were often performed without priest-assistants.[50] The practice was sanctioned by Pope Alexander VII,[51] Pope Clement X[52] and Pope Pius VI.[53] Pius VI’s brief, in fact, was addressed to bishops in what was then called Tonkin and Cochin China — the part of Vietnam where Abp. Thuc’s dioceses were located.
  •      The Church did not merely allow episcopal consecrations to be performed without two priest-assistants, but in some cases specifically ordered it. In one case, Rome ordered that an episcopal consecration not only be performed secretly and without assistants, but even under the seal of confession.[54]

      In a more recent case, Pope Pius XI in 1926 ordered that the Papal Nuncio to Germany perform a secret episcopal consecration without anyone present. The Nuncio was Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, later, of course, Pope Pius XII. Pacelli petitioned Rome that he be allowed to have at least one priest present — not, please note, to serve as a “witness,” but merely so the Cardinal could have someone to hold the Missal on the new bishop’s shoulders as prescribed while the Preface was recited.[55]

  •      Pius XI sent the bishop whom Pacelli consecrated, Mgr. d’Herbigny, into Russia in order to consecrate bishops secretly. He conducted the first such consecration on 21 April 1926 for a certain Father Neveu. The consecration took place without priest-assistants and in the presence of two laymen — circumstances identical to those of the Thuc consecrations. Mgr. d’Herbigny issued no certificate.[56]

      The Church, obviously, would not allow — still less command — a bishop to perform an episcopal consecration without priest-assistants if such were “doubtful.” It is impossible, therefore, to maintain that the Thuc consecrations are “doubtful” on such grounds.

Objection 5. Without a papal dispensation, an episcopal consecration performed without two priest-assistants is doubtful.

  •      Once again, no law or canonist supports this.
  •      The teachings of the canonists directly contradict it. Bouix says flatly: “Even if there should be a consecration without any assistants and without obtaining a pontifical dispensation, it would still be valid.”[57] Regatillo, writing in a 1953 work, goes even further. He says that a consecration performed without a dispensation would be valid even if the bishop “is the only one who is present at the consecration.”[58]
  •      Pope Alexander VII,[59] Pope Clement XI and Pope Benedict XIV declared that consecrations performed without such a dispensation are valid.[60]


      Traditional Catholics, long accustomed to controversies where the virtue or wickedness of persons or organizations stands at center stage, may find all the foregoing dry and bland. We’ve spent no time at all arguing over the personal qualities of the parties involved — whether or not Thuc, Gurard or Carmona were virtuous, wise, prudent, logical, consistent or theologically perspicacious.

      Such discussions have no bearing whatsoever on the issue of whether or not a sacrament is valid. They concern what theologians call the probity of the minister. And it is a truth of the Catholic faith that the valid administration of a sacrament does not depend on a priest or bishop’s probity.[61]

      The issue of whether the Thuc consecrations were valid, therefore, boils down to a few dry principles and a handful of facts:

      (1) All that is required to perform an episcopal consecration validly is an imposition of hands, a 16-word formula and the minimal intention “to do what the Church does.”

      (2) Once you establish the fact that a validly-consecrated bishop performed an episcopal consecration using a Catholic rite, the essential elements are taken for granted. The validity of the consecration requires no further proof; rather, it can only be disproved — and the burden of disproof is on the accuser. This is evident from ordinary pastoral practice, canonists, church law and moral theology. The principle is extended even to episcopal consecrations performed by schismatics.

      (3) Three essential facts are beyond dispute: (a) Abp. Thuc was a validly-consecrated bishop. (b) He performed the rite of episcopal consecration for Bp. Gurard on 7 May 1981 and for Bp. Carmona on 17 October 1981. (c) Abp. Thuc employed a Catholic rite for both consecrations.

      We have a validly-consecrated bishop. He performed episcopal consecrations. He used a Catholic rite. We are obliged, therefore, to regard the episcopal consecrations Abp. P.M. Ng-dinh-Thuc conferred on M.L. Gurard des Lauriers and Moises Carmona Rivera as valid.

      Since these consecrations were valid, we are likewise obliged to regard the Thuc bishops in the U.S. as validly-consecrated bishops who possess the sacramental power to confirm, to ordain, and to consecrate bishops.

 (Sacerdotium 3, Spring 1992)


Acta Apostolicae Sedis. Periodical. Rome.

Alexander VII Pope. Brief Alias, 27 February 1660.

Alexander VII, Pope. Brief Onerosa, 4 February 1663.

Ayrinhac, H.A. Legislation on the Sacraments in the New Code of Canon Law. New York: Longmans 1928.

Benedict XIV, Pope. De Synodo Diocesana. In Operum Editio Novissima. Prado: Aldina 1844. Volume 10.

Beste, Udalricus OSB. Introductio In Codicem. Collegeville: St. John’s 1946.

Bouix, D. Tractatus de Episcopo. Paris: Ruffet 1873.

Cappello, Felix M. SJ. Tractatus Canonico-Moralis De Sacramentis. Rome: Marietti 1961.

Clement X Pope. Brief Decet Romanum, 23 December 1673.

Code of Canon Law.Vatican: 1917.

Collectanea de Propaganda Fide. Periodical. Rome.

Conte a Coronata, Mathaeus OMC. De Sacramentis: Tractatus Canonicus. Turin: Marietti 1943.

Davis, Henry SJ. Moral and Pastoral Theology. New York: Sheed and Ward 1943.

Einsicht. Periodical. Munich.

Fanfani, Ludovicus OP. Manuale Theorico-practicum Theologiae Moralis. Rome: Ferrari 1949.

Fortes dans la Foi. Periodical. Tours (France).

Gasparri, Petro. Tractatus de Sacra Ordinatione. Paris: Delhomme 1893.

Leeming, Bernard SJ. Principles of Sacramental Theology. Westminster md: Newman 1956.

Leo XIII Pope. Bull Apostolicae Curae, 13 September 1896.

Lesourde, Paul. Le Jsuite Clandestine: Mgr. Michel d’Herbigny. Paris: Lethielleux 1981.

Many, S. Praelectiones de Sacra Ordinatione. Paris: Letouzey 1905.

McHugh, J.A. The Casuist.. New York: Wagner 1917.

McHugh, John A. OP & Charles J. Callan OP. Moral Theology. New York: Wagner 1929.

Merkelbach, Benedictus H. OP. Summa Theologiae Moralis. Bruges: Descle 1962.

Nabuco, Joachim. Pontificalis Romani Expositio Juridico-Practica. New York: Benziger 1945.

Noldin, H. & A. Schmitt SJ. Summa Theologiae Moralis. Innsbruck: Rauch 1940.

Pius VI, Pope. Brief Exigit Pastoralis, 22 July 1798.

Regatillo, Eduardus F. SJ. Interpretatio et Jurisprudentia Codicis Juris Canonici, 3rd edition. Santander: Sal Terrae 1953.

Regatillo, Eduardus F. SJ. Jus Sacramentarium, 2nd edition. Santander: Sal Terrae 1949.

Sodalitium. Periodical. Verrua Savoia (Italy).

The Roman Catholic. Periodical. Oyster Bay NY.

Wanenmacher, Francis. Canonical Evidence in Marriage Cases. Philadelphia: Dolphin 1935.

Woywood, Stanislaus OFM. A Practical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law. New York: Wagner 1952.

Zitelli, Zephyrino. Apparatus Juris Ecclesiastici. Rome: 1888.

[1] Einsicht 11 (March 1982), 12. “Je n’ai plus de rlations avec Palmar depuis leur chef se proclame Pape. Je dsapprouve tout ce qu’ils font.”

[2] The Roman Catholic 5 (January 1983), 8.

[3] Among them: Catholic University, St. John’s, Fordham, Xavier, Marquette, Detroit, Dunwoodie, Douglaston, St. Francis and the Josephinum.

[4] F. Cappello, Tractatus Canonico-Moralis De Sacramentis, (Rome: Marietti 1961), 1:21. “Quoties rationabile seu prudens adest dubium de collato sacramento necne aut de collati sacramenti valore.” My emphasis.

[5] H. Davis, Moral and Pastoral Theology. (New York: Sheed and Ward 1943), 3:25. The “validity of a sacrament bestowed.” My emphasis.

[6] H. Noldin & A. Schmitt, Summa Theologiae Moralis (Innsbruck: Rauch 1940), 3:27. “In sacramentis… dubium facti habetur, si dubitatur, an sacramentum reipsa collatum sit vel quomodo collatum sit, nempe cum debita materia, forma et intentione.” His emphasis.

[7] F. Wanenmacher, Canonical Evidence in Marriage Cases, (Philadelphia: Dolphin 1935), 500. “…when the fact of baptism has been established, but the validity remains doubtful…” My emphasis.

[8] H. Ayrinhac, Legislation on the Sacraments (New York: Longmans 1928), 6. “Should a prudent doubt exist as to the fact of their administration or their validity …” My emphasis.

[9] Code of Canon Law, Canon 1014. “in dubio standum est pro valore matrimonii, donec contrarium probetur…”

[10] See S.C. Sacraments, Decree 9 June 1931, Acta Apostolicae Sedis 23 (1931), 457ff.

[11] Einsicht 12 (May 1982), 4–6.

[12] Einsicht 11 (March 1982), 14–19.

[13] Einsicht 11 (March 1982), 14. “Bischofsweihe S.E. Mgr. M.-L. Gurard des Lauriers, o.p.: in Toulon am 7.Mai 1981; Konsekrator: S.E. Mgr. Pierre Martin Ng-dinh-Thuc: nach dem ‘Pontificale Romanum summorum pontificum jussu editum a Benedicto XIV et Leone XIII. Pont. Max.’ (Ratisbonae, Romae, etc. 1908).” “Bischofsweihe S.E. Mgr. Moises Carmona und S.E. Mgr. Adolfo Zamora in Toulon am 17 Oktober 1981; Konsekrator: S.E. Mgr. Pierre Martin Ng-dinh-Thuc: nach dem ‘Pontificale Romanum’ (Ratisbonae, Romae, etc. 1908, S. 520 ff).

[14] Clarence Kelly, et al., Interview with Dr. Kurt Hiller, Munich, February 1988, passim.

[15] Eberhard Heller, “Eidesstattliche Erklrung zu den Bischofsweihen von I.E. Mgr. M.L. Gurard des Lauriers, Mgr. Moises Carmona und Mgr. Adolfo Zamora,” Einsicht 21 (July 1991), 47. “Um noch bestehende Zweifel an den von S.E. Mgr. Pierre Martin Ngo-dinh-Thuc gespendeten Bischofsweihen. die z.B. von bestimmten Personen und Gruppen in den U.S.A. geuert werden, und weil seine Excellenz inzwischen verstorben ist, er sich also dazu selbst nicht mehr �u�ern kann, erkl�re ich an Eides statt, da ich den betreffenden Konsekrationen durch Mgr. Ngo-dinh-Thuc pers�nlich beiwohnte: Ich bezeuge, da� S.E. Mgr. M.L. Gu�rard des Lauriers O.P. am 7.Mai 1981, I.E. Mgr. Moises Carmona und Mgr. Adolfo Zamora am 17 Oktober 1981 in Toulon/ Frankreich von S.E. Mgr. Pierre Martin Ngo-dinh-Thuc zu Bisch�fen der hl. katholischen Kirche geweiht wurden. Die Konsekrationen erfolgten nach dem ‘Pontificale Romanum’ (Rom 1908). Mgr. Ngo-dinh-Thuc spendete die Weihen im Vollbesitz seiner geistigen Kr�fte und in der Absicht, der Kirche aus ihrer Notsituation herauszuhelfen, die er in seiner ‘Declaratio’ �ber die Sedisvakanz vom 25. Februar 1982 pr�zisierte. M�nchen, den 10. Juli 1991. E. Heller.”

[16] Ratzinger to Thuc, Letter 1 February 1983. “Apr�s le d�lai n�cessaire � une enqu�te fond�e, la S. Congr�gation pour la Doctrine de la Foi a pu s’assurer qu’au moins depuis 1981… vous avez �galement conf�r�… l’ordination �piscopale au religieux fran�ais M.L. Gu�rard des Lauriers, OP, ansi qu’aux pr�tres mexicains Moises Carmona et Adolfo Zamora.”

[17] S.C. Pro Doctrina Fidei, Notificatio 12 March 1983, Acta Apostolicae Sedis (April 1983).

[18] L’Osservatore Romano, English edition,  24 December 1984.

[19] Sodalitium 4 (May 1987), 24. “Affermo che questa Consecrazione � valida… Atteso che: 1) il rito tradizionale � stato integralmente osservato (fatto eccezione della lettura del ‘mandato romano’!): 2) Mons. Thuc ed io avevamo l’intenzione di fare ci� che fa la Chiesa.” His emphasis.

[20] Joseph F. Collins, Notes of Interview with Gu�rard, La Charit� (France), August 1987.

[21] Clarence Kelly, et al., Interview with No�l Barbara, Greenwich CT, May 1990.

[22] See J. McHugh & C. Callan, Moral Theology, New York: Wagner 1929), 1:643. “Judgments are morally certain, when error is impossible according to what is customary among mankind, the opposite of what is held by the mind being so unlikely that it would be imprudent to be moved by it.”

*               Adnotatio editoris: Ne quid a devotis etiam rudis lectoribus celeretur, auctor reverendus planum facit se dicere fabulam, latius in Statibus Foederatis Americae ab ephemeridibus aliis sordidis diffusam, quod E. Presley, citharoedum ac divum populo gratissimum (qui �Rex� appellabatur et obiit circa idibus Augusti, anno MCMLXXVII), non vero obiisse, sed vivit jam, quasi in occulto, interdum tamen se videndum praestans, praesertim uxoribus tabernas aromatarias frequentibus — exemplum immo vividum, etiamsi nimirum ab auctoribus probatis haud hucusque citatum.

[23] McHugh & Callan, 1:645.

[24] J. Nabuco, Pontificalis Romani Expositio Juridico-Practica (New York: Benziger 1945), 1:218.

[25] For validity, it is not even necessary that the bishop get all the words exactly right, as long as he does not change the meaning substantially. See E. Regatillo, Jus Sacramentarium (Santander: Sal Terrae 1949), 873.

[26] Wanenmacher, 408.

[27] Wanenmacher, 500. “Similarly when the fact of baptism has been established, but the validity remains doubtful, there is a general presumption in favor of validity. This is especially true of Catholic baptism, and the presumption is elided only by a strict proof to the contrary.”

[28] Wanenmacher, 411. “Under the Code marriage has the favor of law: hence when there is a doubt, we must hold to the validity of the marriage until the contrary is proved (c. 1014).”

[29] S. Woywood, Practical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law (New York: Wagner 1952), 1905. “A sacred order is presumed valid until its invalidity is established by proof to the effect that it was received with want of intention on the part of the petitioner.”

[30] L. Fanfani, Manuale Theorico-practicum Theologiae Moralis (Rome: Ferrari 1949), 4:50. “E contra minister qui leviter tantum aut negative tantum, dubitat, de bona administratione alicuius sacramenti, e.g. non recordatur se verba formae pronuntiasse, nil repetere debet, quinimmo peccat si facit: omne enim factum, supponendum est rite factum, nisi positive constet contrarium.” My emphasis.

[31] P. Gasparri, Tractatus de Sacra Ordinatione (Paris: Delhomme 1893), 1:970. “…tum quia actus, praesertim adeo solemnis qualis est ordinatio, habendus est ut validus, donec invaliditas non evincatur.”

[32] B. Merkelbach, Summa Theologiae Moralis (Bruges: Descl�e 1962) 3:165. “Ubi ergo persona omnino seria, etiam mera obstetrix, quae sit fide digna, circumspecta, et in ritu baptizandi instructa, assereret infantem a se rite baptizatum esse, non esset cur de valore Baptismi serio dubitaretur;…..”

[33] U. Beste, Introductio In Codicem (Collegeville MN: St. John’s 1946), 951. “Hinc ordines collati ab episcopis schismaticis ecclesiae orientalis, iansenistis in Batavia (Hollandia), veterum catholicorum in Germania et Helvetia, validi habendi sunt, nisi in casu particulari vitium essentiale admissum fuerit.”

[34] P. Laghi [to E. Berry], Letter 28 September 1988. “In response to your inquiry of September 23, 1988, the episcopal ordination of Guerard des Lauriers, while valid, was gravely illicit.”

[35] B. Leeming, Principles of Sacramental Theology (Westminster md: Newman 1956), 482. “This principle is affirmed as certain theological doctrine, taught by the Church, to deny which would be theologically rash… the minister is presumed to intend what the rite means..” His emphasis.

[36] Bull Apostolicae Curae, 13 September 1896. “Iamvero quum quis ad sacramentum conficiendum et conferendum materiam formamque debitam serio ac rite adhibuit, eo ipso censetur id nimirum facere intendisse quod facit Ecclesia.”

[37] Tractatus de Sacra Ordinatione, 1:970. “Proinde numquam praesumitur ministrum talem intentionem non ordinandi habuisse in ordinatione peragenda, donec contrarium non probetur; tum quia nemo praesumitur malus, nisi probetur…” His emphasis. The foregoing principles likewise defeat the arguments of those who believe that Lefebvre’s consecrator, Lienart, was a Mason (a phony charge) and thus that Lefebvre’s ordinations are “doubtful.”

[38] M. Conte a Coronata, De Sacramentis: Tractatus Canonicus (Turin: Marietti 1943) 1:56. “Virtualis enim intentio, ut iam vidimus, est intentio ipsa actualis quae cum distractione operatur. Talis intentio certe habetur in eo qui de more ponit actiones sacramentales.”

[39] “Eidesstattliche Erkl�rung…,” loc. cit., “Mgr. Ngo-dinh-Thuc spendete die Weihen im Vollbesitz seiner geistigen Kr�fte.”

[40] Collins, Gu�rard Interview Notes.

[41] Sodalitium 4 (May 1987), 24. “Atteso che… Mons. Thuc ed io avevamo l’intenzione di fare ci� che fa la Chiesa.”

[42] Conference, Cincinnati, 13 December 1991.

[43] Joseph Collins, Notes of Interview with No�l Barbara, November 1989.

[44] Declaration 19 December 1981, reprinted in Einsicht (March 1982).

[45] Declaration 25 February 1982. The text was transcribed and reprinted in Einsicht (March 1982).

[46] Thuc to Gu�rard, undated letter [early 1982]. “Excellentissime Domine: Recepi litteras tuas tantum his diebus, quia non sum in urbe Toulon jam ab uno mense. In illa epistola, voluisti cognoscere utrum concelebravi, anno praeterito, in die quinta Sanctae hebdomadae cum Episcopo hujus diocesis. Utique, cum illo Episcopo celebravi, quia illa die non potui celebravi in meo domo secundum legem Ecclesiae. Tu dixisti quod ego commisi peccatum, quia secundum te, Missa illius episcopi erat invalida. Spero quod Deus non me judicavit ita crudeliter, quia erravi in bona fide. + P.M. Ng�-dinh-Thuc.”

[47] The recipient of the sacrament, his diocesan ordinary, and the ordinary of the diocese where the sacrament was conferred. See Canon 1994.1. “Validitatem sacrae ordinationis accusare valet clericus peraeque ac Ordinarius cui clericus subsit vel in cuius diocesi ordinatus sit.”

[48] See Cappello 4:683. “Aliae personae extraneae procul dubio jure accusandi carent.”

[49] De Synodo Diocesana 13.13.7. “Et utroque casu aliquid desideratur, quod ad ejusdem actus solemnitatem, et praescriptorum rituum observantiam pertinet; quandoquidem in prima facti specie deest duorum Antistitum praesentia a sacris canonibus statuta; in altera vero desideratur praesentia duorum Sacerdotum, quos Pontifex adhibendos voluit.”

[50] Z. Zitelli, Apparatus Juris Ecclesiastici (Rome: 1888), 23. “Siquando necessitas postulet vel impossibilitas adsit tres habendi Episcopos, Romani Pontificis erit indulgere ut consecratio ab uno fiat Episcopo cum assistentia duorum Sacerdotum, qui in dignitate ecclesiastica constituti sint, vel etiam a solo Episcopo absque ulla assistentia, ut saepe usuvenit in locis sacrarum missionum.”

[51] S. Many, Praelectiones de Sacra Ordinatione (Paris: Letouzey 1905), 519. “Alexander VII, brevi Onerosa, 4 Feb. 1664, concessit ut aliqua episcopalis ordinatio, apud Sinas, fieret ab uno tantum episcopo, cum assistentia duorum presbyterorum, et etiam, si opus esset, sine illorum assistentia.”

[52] Brief Decet Romanum, 23 December 1673, 3. The Pontiff specifically confirmed the privileges granted by Alexander VII, among them, performing the “…munus consecrationis cum assistentia aliorum duorum presbyterorum, etiamsi non essent episcopi, nec in ecclesiastica dignitate constituti, si adessent, sin minus, etiam sine illorum assistentia…”

[53] Brief Exigit Pastoralis, 22 July 1798. “…munus consecrationis cum adsistentia aliorum duorum presbyterorum, etiamsi non sint Episcopi, nec in ecclesiastica dignitate constituti, si adfuerint, sin minus etiam sine illorum assistentia…”

[54] J. McHugh, The Casuist (New York:Wagner 1917), 5:241.

[55] P. Lesourde, Le J�suite Clandestine: Mgr. Michel d’Herbigny (Paris: Lethielleux), 70. In the account of his secret consecration, Mgr. d’Herbigny writes: “Le Nonce expliqua que Rome lui avait d’abord prescrit d’�tre seul avec le P�re d’Herbigny. Il avait fait valoir que, sans la pr�sence d’au moins un assistant, la c�remonie lui semblait irr�alisable, ne serait-ce que pour maintenir le Missel sur les �paules du consacr�.”

[56] See Lesourde, 76ff.

[57] D. Bouix, Tractatus de Episcopo (Paris: Ruffet 1873), 1:243. “Sed etiamsi fiat consecratio absque ullis assistentibus, et absque obtenta Pontificia dispensatione, adhuc valida erit.”

[58] E. Regatillo, Interpretatio et Jurisprudentia Codicis J.C. (Santander: Sal Terrae 1953), 465. “Unus episcopus sufficit ad validitatem consecrationis, dummodo ritum essentialem cum debita intentione ponat. Idque etsi sine pontificia dispensatione unicus sit qui consecrationi intersit.” My emphasis.

[59] Brief Alias, 27 February 1660. “Quantum spectat ad sacramentum et impressionem characteris fuisse validam.”

[60] De Synodo Diocesana 13.13.9-10. “…consecrationem hujusmodi validam, licet illicitam, esse censuerunt… ratam firmamque, sed illicitam Consecrationem pronuntiavit.” Benedict’s emphasis, quoting Clement’s decree of 26 November 1718.

[61] Cappello, 1:36. “In ministro non requiritur nec status gratiae, nec vitae probitas, imo nec ipsa fides, ad validam sacramentorum confectionem vel administrationem. Haec est veritas catholica de fide.” His emphasis.