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Pius XII, Excommunication, and Traditional Catholic Bishops

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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.

Glory Into Shame

Original Post on Traditional Mass

Glory into Shame

Most Rev. Donald J. Sanborn

I will turn their glory into shame. Osee 4:7

HORROR IS THE ONLY WORD TO describe the proper reaction to news stories in recent weeks concerning the misbehavior of the Novus Ordo [post-Vatican II] clergy. The level of depravity is so high, and the problem so widespread, that now one has to be ashamed to wear the Roman collar in public.

I am referring, of course, to the national problem of pedophilia among Novus Ordo priests.

In the past, before the Council, there was scarcely anything more honorable, particularly in America, than to be a Catholic priest. In the eyes of all, even most Protestants, he was a man of dignity, worthy of respect and admiration. To the Catholic people, the priests were like beings from heaven, worthy of the most profound reverence and obedience.

Thanks to Vatican II, all that has changed. The glory of the priest has now turned into shame. We are now embarrassed to wear our Roman collars.

The further tragedy is that Novus Ordo priests (most of them are doubtfully ordained) have abandoned their Roman collars for many years now. Except for a few conservatives, the only time they can be seen in them is on formal occasions. Yet, since they are perceived to be Roman Catholic priests in the eyes of the world, they bring down opprobrium upon us all. Traditional priests, who wear the collar all the time, have to bear the shame of these monsters of perversion and selfishness.

In the news stories, one should note that, in nearly all cases, the problem began after the Council. Typically the abuse began in the 1960s or 1970s. It is, I think, appropriate to address why this is such a widespread problem in the Novus Ordo. It is of no surprise to me that they are beset by this catastrophe. It is a harvest completely in accordance with the seeds that they have sown. It is not a mere coincidence that the Novus Ordite clergy in this country, which before the Council enjoyed a supreme reputation as the Roman Catholic clergy, after the Council has sunk into the pits of moral degradation.

  1. Loss of Faith.

Vatican II, purely and simply, was the destruction of faith in many tens of thousands of priests. The Council and its subsequent reforms destroyed this holy virtue by which we have a sight of supernatural realities and of our supernatural goal, the Beatific Vision. The heresy of Modernism took its place, which strips God of His transcendental and supernatural attributes, and reduces Him to a product of our subconscious. Religion is not from above, but from the depths of our soul. God is one of us. This loss of supernatural faith, together with its natural effect of reducing the priest to a social worker or self-help counselor, is the most important factor in the immorality of the Novus Ordo clergy.

  1. Repudiation of Traditional Spirituality.

After the Council there was an abrupt switch in what we call spirituality, that is, the principles which govern the spiritual life. The traditional spirituality was that we had to castigate our bodies, and bring them into subjection, lest we be led away by our passions into sin. Mortification of the passions, and of the effects of original sin, were the foundation stones of Catholic spirituality. That was all thrown out in the 1960s. The traditional ascetical books, such as the Imitation of Christ, were scoffed at and even mocked. Instead, you were supposed to become more human. Your passions were not to be castigated or repressed; rather you were to follow them, in order to be more yourself. Original sin and its effects were virtually denied. Naturalism took the place of the traditional asceticism. The result was that seminaries of the 1960s and thereafter became fraught with immorality of all types.

  1. Denial of Hell.

In the Novus Ordo, everyone is going to heaven, because everyone is a good person. So the pedophile had no reason to doubt his salvation. There are no eternal fires of hell to fear for having violated the most sacred thing on earth after the Blessed Sacrament: the holy priesthood. So he can carry on his filthy business on the side, and still manage to be a wonderful priest to his other parishioners. For the measure of the quality of his priesthood was not the state of his soul, or his love of God, but how he related to people.

  1. Psychology.

In the 1960s, psychology replaced the spiritual life. You were told to fulfill yourself, to follow your dream. The soul was merely a complex union of many different fears, anxieties, imaginations, desires, fantasies, and so forth. All problems could be worked out by therapy. No one was responsible for his actions, since you were acting merely in a pre-programmed, natural way. If there was anything wrong, it was to be blamed on something else: the way you were raised or your genes. Moral responsibility was practically non-existent. The bishops enthusiastically embraced this new approach, and tried to solve the problem of the abusive priests by merely sending them to therapy for a while, and then reassigning them to another parish.

  1. Death of Outrage.

Owing to lack of supernatural faith, and to the other factors that I have already described, outrage over these crimes of abuse came to a halt. For example, under St. Pius V in Rome, the penalty for sodomy was burning at the stake. In the American War Between the States, the penalty for the same crime in the Union army was hanging, since they considered the firing squad to be too dignified. Lincoln hardly ever gave a reprieve. In the French army in World War I, the penalty was death by firing squad. If they were merciful to you, they would put you at the head of a suicide mission from which you would not return.

The world shaped by Catholicism had a horror for this crime, and even Protestants retained a respect for the natural law in this regard. If you open a traditional catechism, you will find that the Catholic Church considers this sin to be one of those sins which cry to heaven for vengeance. This severe condemnation is based on Gods special hatred for it, found in Genesis, and in the epistles of St. Paul.

For this reason, prelates in the past dealt with such problems with great severity. Immediate expulsion and defrocking were the normal penalties. There was no sending you to the psychiatrist, and then reassigning you.

With the resurgence of paganism in the twentieth century, however, and with it the return of shameless abandon in the realm of sexual mores, shock and outrage about this vice has disappeared. The ancient pagan world was not in any way repulsed by the thought of unnatural vice. The Roman army encouraged it. Plato held it in esteem, and the three hundred Greek soldiers who defended Western civilization at ThermopylaePass were also addicted to the vice. It was only the Jews who objected to it, blessed as they were by divine revelation. St. Paul repeatedly warns the new converts from paganism that they had to abandon this vice.

Complacency with the vice, however, is returning.

  1. No Objective Morality.

Anyone familiar with the Novus Ordo knows that for them all morality is subjective. This may not be what is taught in their catechisms, but it is certainly the spirit and attitude of the Novus Ordo religion. There is a tremendous gap between official teaching and what, in fact, is held. Although artificial birth control is officially condemned, for example, the vast majority of Novus Ordites believe in it and practice it and receive communion on Sunday. If they should bring it up to a Novus Ordo priest, they are told to use their consciences. That means, go ahead.

The abandonment of objective morality, however, leaves the door wide open for the practice of unnatural vice. Who is to say that it is wrong? So what if it is against nature? What is nature? Isn’t it natural to feel good?

Is it any wonder, then, that these same priests that are blessing the unnatural vice of contraception in marriage should also be practicing a form of it themselves?

  1. No More Anathemas.

These awful words were pronounced by Paul VI in the 1960s. It would be the equivalent of a police chief in a great city declaring no more arrests. The anathema is the Church’s way of keeping her dogmatic and moral house in order. It is a statement to those of her fold who go astray that they are no longer of the fold. But John XXIII and Paul VI, entirely in the spirit of Modernism, did away with it, and decided that the best way to deal with dogmatic recalcitrants was to be kind to them. They would solve the problem of their heresy by merely reaffirming the truth, as they put it, but not by condemning the error, or the erring. Thirty-five years of this dogmatic and moral anarchy, therefore, has produced its bitter fruit: heretics, misfits, perverts, and sickos representing, at least in the public eye, the Roman Catholic clergy.

The Catholic Church is in an awful state.

When Will It End?

When will the Novus Ordo hierarchy recognize that Vatican II was a disaster? When will they pack it in? When will they give it up? How many more scandals need to happen? How many more minors need to be abused? How many more seminaries and convents need to be sold off for no vocations?

And here we have confined ourselves to the current problem of pedophilia. What about the other forms of immorality in the Novus Ordo clergy?

Are the traditional priests sinless?

No, of course not. They have to say their Confiteor at the foot of the altar, too. But the traditional standard is high. A priest is supposed never to commit a mortal sin. If he does, he is not to say Mass, but must confess as soon as possible, and be restored to the state of grace. He is supposed to strive against all venial sin, and even imperfections, with the help of grace and mortification.

Is it possible for the traditional priest to fall as the Novus Ordites have? Of course it is, and some have. But the traditional priest has many, many barriers against such a fall: supernatural faith in the sacredness of his own priesthood; belief in objective morality; horror at the very thought of such a sin; the sense of mortal sin and hell; the traditional asceticism leading him to the mortification of evil passions; a sense of moral responsibility for his actions; ostracism by his fellow priests and by the lay people. If a traditional priest should fall, he must crash through all of these barriers. The Novus Ordo clergyman has none of these.

Something is Deeply Wrong

If Satan himself wrote a plan for the destruction of the Catholic Church, it would not be more efficacious than what Vatican II has done. This wretched Council has destroyed everything dear to us, and has brought Catholics and the world at large into the darkness of ignorance and into a putrid state of morality. Will the sting of this widespread loathsome behavior of clergy wake any one up? Will anyone take notice that the honor of the Catholic priest has been turned into shame?

As horrific as these news stories are, it is my hope that some greater good will come out of them. Certainly some will conclude that Vatican II has given us evil fruit. I hope and pray that some will finally see that the Vatican II religion has been the ruin of Catholicism, the 9/11 of the Catholic faith for millions of people, and that the only hope is to return to the unaltered Faith of all time.

(Most Holy Trinity Seminary Letter to Benefactors, March 2002)

Are You Catholic? Are You Confused by the Church Lately? | Bishop Sanborn

Are You Catholic? Are You Confused at the Church Lately?

Bishop Sanborn gives answers to Catholics and their dilemma following the Second Vatican Council.

Get answers to all the things that seem off, or outright contradictory to Catholic teaching.

Sanctifying Our Souls Through Prayer

Original Post on CMRI

Sanctifying Our Souls Through Prayer

By Very Rev. Fr. Casimir Puskorius, CMRI

It is not what we do physically speaking or what we accomplish in the temporal realm that is important in life, but what we accomplish in our souls — how we sanctify ourselves. This is the most important thing in life, and our first, last, and most important tool will always be that of prayer.

My dear friends in Christ, prayer is heaven. Perhaps this is a simple way of looking at it, but, as we teach the little children in school, heaven is where God is. Although it is not the same as seeing the Beatific Vision, is it not heaven to be with God? How do we come close to God in this life, if not through prayer, and especially Holy Communion?

Perhaps we have envied Adam and Eve walking in the garden of Paradise, talking to God familiarly in the evening hours of the day, and yet that same opportunity is available for all of us, no matter what the hour of day or night. True, we cannot see God as they did but the contact is no less real. At times, of course, it is difficult to pray because it is an exercise of faith. We are talking to Someone whom we don’t see. This also tells us that prayer must be from the heart. Lip service will not do when we talk about prayer.

This may be a bit of a digression, but Father Tanquery, in his excellent summary of the spiritual life, lists the four interior means of perfection. I would like to spend some time on this subject since it ties in with the theme of this conference.

First of all, in order to become perfect we must have the desire. Without the desire, we will not accomplish anything. The stronger our desire, the more we will be able to accomplish.

The second interior means of perfection is knowledge of God and of self. This is absolutely necessary. Why must we know God? Because He is the terminus, the end for which we are seeking. Unless we have a clear idea of God, and try to grow in our knowledge of Him, we will not be inclined to advance towards Him in the pursuit of perfection. We must grow in our knowledge of God. To do this, we must meditate upon His perfections, His infinite goodness, in order to be inspired to a greater desire to come close to Him.

Along with knowledge of God comes knowledge of self. As our idea of God becomes more and more elevated, we become more and more aware of our sinfulness and unworthiness. Is not this the wellspring of contrition? As we grow in our knowledge of Almighty God through prayer and spiritual exercises, and understand better His infinite goodness, we begin to ask ourselves how we could have ever fallen into those faults and sins we once committed so lightly. To supplement the knowledge of self we acquire in meditation, it is necessary that we examine our consciences. Meditation is good, but examination of conscience roots out those faults that we see in ourselves.

The third interior means of perfection is conformity to the Divine Will. This is done through obedience, and conformity to the crosses and sufferings that God sends us. How much room for reflection is there upon this! It is so hard to obey at times, so hard to resign ourselves to crosses, and yet those things are the Will of God for us, and we must try to accept them.

Finally the fourth means of perfection is prayer. The amazing thing about prayer is that it includes the other three means of perfection. I quote from Father Tanquery: “Prayer embodies and completes all of these three preceding acts. It is itself a desire for perfection since no one would sincerely pray who did not wish to become better. It presupposes some knowledge of God and of self, since it establishes relations between the two.”

What do we do when we pray? We adore, we thank, we offer contrition and reparation for our sins. “Prayer also conforms our will to that of God, since any good prayer contains an act of submission to Almighty God. Prayer, moreover, perfects all these acts by bringing us in all humility before the Majesty of God.” So you see, then, the power of prayer. You can see how St. Alphonsus could say that if a person prays, he will save his soul; if he does not, he will lose his soul. We, of course, should not be concerned with only saving our souls, but with sanctifying our souls.

Some other considerations on prayer are quite elementary. We know that when we pray together we unite the force of our prayer with that of others, so that we get the merit of all the prayers combined. Our Lord, of course, said that where there are two or three gathered together in His Name, He is there with them.

But something I would like to emphasize even more is mental prayer — the prayer of the heart. Of course, vocal prayer, too, is from the heart, but in mental prayer it is just the heart, just the mind operating. When we pray vocally, often we are telling God what we want. That is very good. Without this we would not save our souls. But when we make mental prayer, we should also be listening God to find out what He wants us to do. Do you see the difference? As important as it is to ask God for what we want, it is even more necessary for us to listen to Him. How good are we at listening to God as we make our meditation? Perhaps we are having difficulty in the spiritual life precisely because we are not listening enough to God.

The sentiments we have when we make our mental prayer should not be just feelings, although those are nice to have — but sentiments of adoration, love, praise, thanksgiving, contrition and resolution. Be careful not to fall into the delusion that because you have no feeling, your mental prayer is a waste — not at all! As long as you make the act of the will, you have made mental prayer.

At times you may be so dry that you don’t know what to think or say. If you then just do your best, God will understand. At other times it may seem we cannot even put into words what we need, or what we would like to say. Let me suggest that you then make your sentiments those of the “Our Father,” the perfect prayer. It begins by hallowing the Name of God, by adoring and worshipping. Then we offer to God our wish that His Kingdom come — that His Will be done, in ourselves and in others. Next we ask for our daily bread — both the spiritual food of our soul, and food for our body, our temporal necessities. If we really meditated upon the Our Father, I am sure we would find more than abundant matter to make good mental prayer, especially at those times we find ourselves bereft of the sentiments we would like to have.

Prayer is a penance, and it must be so. It is difficult to cast out distractions. Sometimes we have to fight the whole period through to remove thoughts that should not be there. At other times we are tired, or we don’t feel like praying. Let me remind you that penance adds a great value to our prayer. When the three Kings came before Our Divine Lord, they did not bring only frankincense, which signified prayer. They also brought gold, which signifies charity, and myrrh, symbolic of sacrifice. A life of interior prayer is a life of sacrifice. One of the prayers we used to pray in honor of the Holy Kings begged that we might never appear before God empty-handed when we came to pray, but that we would always have some type of sacrifice to bring with us.

When we pray, we must be careful not to be lax with our physical posture. God expects us not to honor Him only with our soul, but with our bodies as well. This takes self-discipline. Surely this is what Our Lord referred to when He said that some devils are cast out only by prayer and fasting. Sometimes we mumble our prayers. If we talked to others as we sometimes speak to God, wouldn’t they take insult? Prayer requires attention, an upright posture — these things add to the value of our prayer. Sometimes the prayer itself is the penance — the mortification it takes to pray well.

Allow me to suggest that you keep a little metaphorical box where you can put all your cares, your worries, your plans, your projects, before you go to prayer. Lock it up, throw the key away, so that when you pray, all of those things can stay there. If we allow those thoughts to come with us, is there any purpose of even being in chapel? We take so much away from God; we find Him undeserving of our full attention. St. Aloysius took his prayer so seriously that he made a resolve that if he got a single distraction during his hour of mental prayer, he would start all over. Of course, this is not necessarily something to imitate, but at least we find in him a patron we can pray to for devotedness to our prayer life.

Prayer must be our life. We are told by St. Paul whether we eat or drink we should do all for the glory of God. St. Augustine and St. Thomas tells us how this can be done. The former tells us to converge our life, our actions, our occupations, our meals, even our repose, into a hymn of praise to God’s glory. “Let the harmony of your life ever rise as a song so that you may never cease to praise. If you will give praise, sing them, not only with your lips, but sweep the chords upon the psalter of good works.” “Thou dost give praise when thou workest, when thou eatest and drinkest, when thou lyest to rest, when Thou sleepest, thou givest praise, even if thou holdest thy peace.”

By the grace of baptism, we have all been adopted as children of God, and all of our actions should be referred to Almighty God. Let me give you an analogy. Let us suppose that a human being could adopt something of the plant or animal kingdom and somehow raise it to the human level, pouring out upon this adopted “new” human, shall we say, all the privileges of man — dominion over the plant and animal kingdoms, free will, intellect, etc. Wouldn’t you expect this adopted creature always to live up to its new dignity? What would you think if it were to say, “I’m tired of this; I want to go back to being what I was”?

This gives us just a little bit of an idea of the infinite distance that we have traversed through our supernatural adoption. God expects us because of the grace of baptism, to always live a life that conforms to our supernatural state. When we sin, or act from purely natural motives, it is as if we are telling God, “I’m tired of this. I want to go back down to where I was before.” By a life of prayer, we live a life of supernatural adoption.

Our prayer time is limited; we can’t spend all day on our knees praying, so we must make our work a prayer. It was said of Pere Lamy that, because of very unique circumstances, he had time only to pray his Office and offer Holy Mass. In this case, apparently, it was the Will of God–it was all he could do. Despite this, he continued to grow in holiness. How can this happen? Because he made his work a prayer. He did it for the love of God.

Prayer, what a beautiful thing it is! It encompasses all, it leads to all virtue. We often pray the most when we are feeling the weight of the cross, and indeed, I think that is why God sometimes sends us the cross. We often get so comfortable where we are that, without some difficulty to overcome, we would not pray.

There is another mistake we often make, when we feel we need a particular grace and pray fervently to God for it. We have the whole answer painted out in our minds; we have the solution already planned out. What a mistake! Our solution is not the same as God’s solution, so we think that He is not listening. Yet God knows we need something else far more and gives us that instead.

In closing, I exhort you to make a firm resolution, one that you will write down, to ensure your stability, growth and perseverance in this all- important means of sanctification. There is a saying that there are more things wrought by the power of prayer than the world can dream of. Let us take that to heart. Prayer gives us the assurance that no matter what the difficulty, we can always reach out to God. We cannot lose with prayer — it is impossible, absolutely impossible. My prayer is that each one of us will grow more and more convinced of this. Let us pray for one another.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

The Virtue of Patience | by Fr. Dominic Radecki

Original Post on CMRI

The Virtue of Patience

A Sermon by Fr. Dominic Radecki, CMRI

You may have heard this short prayer: “Lord, give me patience, but please hurry!” What is patience? It is a virtue which helps us, for the love of God, to calmly bear our tribulations and preserve serenity amid the sufferings of life. Patience tempers sorrow and staves off excessive anger and complaining. Patience is the guardian of all the virtues, for there are obstacles to be encountered in any good work, and they can be overcome only by patience.

Spiritual writers are not the only ones who attest to the importance of patience. An Englishman once asked William Pitt what quality was most essential for a Prime Minister. One person had said, “eloquence,” another “knowledge,” and yet another “hard work.” “No,” said Pitt, “it is patience or self-control” (In Pursuit of Perfection,Charles Hugo Doyle, p. 133).

Patience and self-control are never more sorely tested than in our daily sufferings. Suffering is common to all, but it is meritorious only if accepted with the proper dispositions. Fr. Balthazar Alvarez enumerates the five causes of suffering which try our patience:

1) Assault of the weather: extreme cold, excessive heat, violent storms, drought, high humidity, floods, earthquakes, etc. Such trials very often strengthen faith by recalling to mind the sovereign dominion of God.

2) The necessities of our weak human nature, such as fatigue, sickness, hunger, thirst, etc. God allows these so that we may do penance for our sins and increase our virtues. The ultimate of these sufferings is the sorrow caused by the death of a loved one — a grief which may last a lifetime.

3) Pain, irritation and frustration due to personality conflicts with others. God makes use of the weakness of others to test and strengthen our virtues.

4) Insults, contempt, opposition, false accusations and misunderstanding, which often cause mental anguish.

5) Spiritual sufferings that one encounters in the service of God, such as spiritual dryness, scruples, distractions, temptations and persecutions from the devil.

In all these cases, a wise person bravely accepts and carries his cross because it leads to eternal salvation. Not only that, it can even beget supernatural happiness in this life: “Esteem it all joy, my brethren, when you fall into various trials, knowing that the trying of your faith begets patience.”2 The saints knew how to suffer with patience. They bravely and joyfully carried their crosses because they realized that the cross is God’s greatest gift. The saints knew that patience in tribulation is the main road to salvation.

God did not choose an angel to mediate between sinners and Himself. Rather, the Father sent the Son to suffer and die to redeem mankind. Unlike an angel, who could have compassion but not empathy for our condition, Jesus Christ assumed our human nature to share our wounds and sorrows. Never again could it be said that God does not know what suffering is like from personal experience. St. Jane Frances de Chantal explains how this empathic example of Our Lord can inspire us. Speaking of those who have offended us, she writes: “With whom did Jesus converse? With a traitor who sold Him at a cheap rate, with a thief who reviled Him in His last moments, with sinners and proud pharisees. And shall we, at every shadow of an affront or contradiction, show how little charity and patience we have?”

At times we take the easy way out and give up. It is in times like these that we need a “wake-up call.” When a sheep strays from the fold, the shepherd sends his dog after it, not to devour it, but to bring it back again. So our Heavenly Father, if any of His sheep stray away, setting out on the wrong path, sets His dogs of affliction to bring us home to a consideration of our duty towards Him. His dogs are poverty, sickness, death, war, and loss of material goods or friends.

Patience is exercised when we resign our will to the will of God and accept our crosses as coming from the hand of God for our welfare. Our individual burdens, whatever they may be, are God’s gift and have divine blessings for us, if we bear them in faith and love. When we call upon God for help, He will likely not take the load from our shoulders, but rather strengthen us to carry the burden. Patience does not necessarily exclude wishing for relief from suffering, but it does exclude murmuring about it. We need to pray and to exercise patience and courage in order to bear it.

It is easy to think that our troubles are greater than those of others. Yet a walk through the nearest hospital will soon dispel that illusion. Unless we are very self-centered and spiritually blind, we will leave the hospital counting our blessings and thanking God. Indeed, none of us has a monopoly on trouble. There is plenty to go around. There always has been.

The worldly view of suffering is misleading and dangerous; it is both irrational and irreligious. The world gives to suffering the consideration that really ought to be given to sin, regarding it as the supreme evil to be combatted at any cost, as the great enemy of mankind, and as something in which there is no particle of good or any mitigating circumstances. This view leads to strenuous efforts to abolish suffering, thereby making people less capable of enduring it and often causing their efforts to be wasted and misdirected.

The world values and seeks comfort, pleasure and status. What place have pain and poverty in such a scheme of life as this? What need is there, for the world’s purposes, of virtues such as patience, resignation, meekness, contentment, faith? It does not want to know about suffering or to make provision for it.

True patience is a difficult virtue to practice because of our selfishness and fear of the cross. It is difficult to preserve peace of soul in times of sickness, misfortune and stress. The pressure of many and onerous duties in our state of life often causes us to be impatient along with the fatigue of the battle.

The continued practice of patience will bring about a greater love for Christ and for our neighbor. We become more tolerant of others’ faults, more forgiving, and more ready to help others. This behavior will be supernaturally meritorious, of course, only in so far as we are united to Christ and draw our strength from Him. We must do our good actions for His honor and glory, otherwise, all this is purely natural and will quickly fade rather than grow stronger.

As with any virtue, patience and Christlikeness is attained by degrees. First, we must have a genuine and serious desire to acquire patience and this desire must be activated through daily prayer. Second, we must resolve to prevent small crosses and contradictions from destroying our peace of soul. St. Teresa said, “If we bear slight things patiently, we shall acquire courage and strength to bear great things.” Thirdly, meditation on the Passion of Christ will increase our love of God and arouse in us an earnest desire of imitation: “Christ has suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.” St. Paul tells us to consider Christ “Who endured such opposition from sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.”

The joy of serving God wells up in our hearts, enabling us, no matter how weak and timid we may seem to be, to carry the cross cheerfully and even triumphantly. A prime example took place in Paris during the horrors of the French Revolution:

“Condemned to the guillotine, a community of nuns was forced to pass through the abominable, storm-swept streets, where terror reigned supreme, to arrive at the place of their doom.

“The Sisters raised their serene voices, chanting the sublime hymn, ‘Veni Creator Spiritus.’ Never before, the listeners thought, had that anthem of majestic praise been so divinely sung — so much as if the chant of heaven itself had floated down and mingled with the melody. The celestial song did not cease when they ascended the stairs of the scaffold and the work of butchery went on. Voice after voice had to drop from the chorus as each nun bent under the blade, and at length one voice was heard alone sustaining the holy strain, with no faltering or cadence, even while the bloody blade fell and sealed the last martyr’s testimony. Over scaffolds and through blood, beset by slow sufferings and sharp tortures, continues the march of the followers of Our Lord, but, all the while, we will be sustained by the rations of His joy, and look gladly forward to His promised gift when the night cometh and we lay down our arms in the kingdom of heaven.”

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.