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 Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre; Contra Fr. Harrison 
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New post Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre; Contra Fr. Harrison
Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre; Contra Fr. Harrison
(On A Proper Understanding Of Epikeia)

By Sean Paul Johnson


In the April 15, 2005 edition of The Remnant, Fr. Brian Harrison had the following to say on the subject of “epikeia” with regard to Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s 1988 episcopal consecrations:

“According to sound canonical principles, appealing to a ‘state of necessity’ (c. 1324, #4) in order to justify infringement of a law or precept is justifiable only as an instance of genuine epikeia: that is, in an extraordinary situation where it can be presumed that the legislator himself, were he aware of those concrete circumstances, would allow the infringement. But if we take the case of Archbishop Lefebvre’s 1988 consecrations, such a situation obviously did not exist. For the legislatoe, Pope John Paul II, had not only made it abundantly clear that in his judgment there was no ‘necessity’ for those illicit consecrations; he had strictly, specifically, and personally forbidden the Archbishop to carry them out.”

From this, Fr. Harrison rapidly progresses to draw the following conclusion:

“Canonically, therefore, the latter [Archbishop Lefebvre] really did not have a leg to stand on. I believe Fr. Bisig and others did well to depart from the SSPX in that dramatic moment, in order to obey Peter.”

It is not my present purpose to address, in this article, Fr. Harrison’s faulty conceptions of “obedience” and “necessity” implicit in such statements. These issues were discussed last year at great length in this very paper within the context of my revision/re-edit of “Hirpinus’” watershed study “The 1988 Consecrations: A Theological Study,” which ran in four installments under the title “On The Doctrine Of Necessity” (beginning with the May 31, 2004 edition of The Remnant). Either Fr. Harrison missed the entire series, or he has chosen to ignore the unassailable arguments contained therein.

The purpose of the present letter is to address the deficiency in understanding made manifest in Fr. Harrison’s most recent comments on epikeia. I say deficiency, because his erroneous conclusion (with regard to Archbishop Lefebvre) is derived from want of necessary theological distinctions on the subject.

Consider that Fr. Harrison’s description and application of the principle of epikeia most closely approximates what is called epikeia in the strict (or improper) sense. Epikeia thus defined (see his comments above) is really nothing more than clemency or moderation in the application of laws and in the exercise of authority. Epikeia in this sense can be thought of as that which presumes the authority – out of its kindness- does not wish to oblige, although it has the power to do so and hence, if the lawmaker is accessible, there is a duty to ask him, given that it is a question of his will, which is free. Hence, the will of the superior is the controlling element in the application of strict epikeia.

Epikeia in the strict sense is applicable in either of the following two circumstances:

1. When, for reasons of exceptional circumstance, submission to the positive law would be too burdensome, without there resulting a good proportionate to the sacrifice being demanded;
2. When, without becoming evil…and without imposing an unjustified heroism…, the observance of the positive law runs into special and unforeseen difficulties which render it, as it turns out, harder than it should have been according to the intention of the legislator.

Obviously, epikeis in this sense has nothing to do with the case of Archbishop Lefebvre. He never claimed to have recourse to it. That Fr. Harrison imagines he did only goes to demoinstrate his ignorance of epikeia in the broad/proper sense (upon which SSPX apologists have always relied, in conjunction with a proper understanding of the doctrine of necessity).

Epikeia in the broad and proper sense (also known as “necessary epikeia” or “epikeia without recourse to the superior” ) is left out of consideration by Fr. Harrison. Fr. Tito Centi, O.P. explains that epikeia in this sense is applicable:

“When in a particular situation, the prescriptions of the positive law are in opposition to a superior law which binds one to regard higher interests.”

It is orecisely such a situation which exists in a state of grave general spiritual necessity; a case where the positive law (in this case the command of the pope to refrain from performing the Episcopal consecrations) has become evil insofar as it opposes itself to higher and more binding laws (i.e., the duty imposed, ex officio, upon those consecrated to the Episcopal state to come to the spiritual aid of those who have no hope of help from their legitimate pastors).

Naz, commenting on the doctrine of St, Thomas Aquinas, explains that, in such a case, the superior loses not the will (as in strict epikeia) but the power to bind:

“In certain cases the law loses its power to bind – as where its application would be contrary to the common good or to natural law- and in such a case it is not in the power of the legislator to bind or to oblige.”

Archbishop Lefebvre, then, under the duty of obedience first to higher precepts of divine natural and positive law, was bound “not to observe the law, whether he asks of does not ask permission from the superior.” As regards obtaining permission from the pope in such circumstances, Suarez explains that:

“In such a case the authority of the superior cannot have any effect; indeed, even if he were to will that the subject, after having had recourse to him, should observe the law, the latter would not be able to obey him because he must obey God rather than man, and hence in such a situation it is out of place (“impertinens”) to ask permission.”

Continuing the same subject, Suarez teaches that: “One does not presume in the lawmaker that he has a will to bind in such a case, and even if he had, it would be without effect. On this point all doctors are agreed who treat of obedience and of laws.”

And finally:

“For that reason, when it is established for certain that the law in a particular circumstance has become unjust or contrary to another command or virtue which is more binding [as the moral virtue of obedience is inferior to the cardinal virtue of justice], then the law ceases to oblige and on his own initiative he can disregard the law without having recourse to the superior, given that the law in that case could not be observed without sin, nor could the superior bind his subject to respect it…”

It is in this broad and proper sense of epikeia, then, that Archbishop Lefebvre was fully justified (in fact, morally compelled, given the state of grave general spiritual necessity) in performing the 1988 episcopal consecrations, notwithstanding the “no” of the pope. Insofar as Fr. Harrison appears to have limited his knowledge on the matter to epikeia in the strict and improper sense, it was likewise impossible that he could have arrived at any other conclusionthan that “Canonically speaking, Archbishop Lefebvre really did not have a leg to stand on.” Faulty principles yield faulty conclusions.
SiSiNoNo (July and Sept.., 1999). Angelus Press (Kansas City, MO).
Roberti-Palazzini. Dizionario di Teologia Morale, ad. Studium, under “equita.” See also: aequitas canonica cit., Naz, Dictionnaire Droit Canonique under “equite.”
Suarez, F. De Legibus, L. VI, c. VII, n. 6.
Fr. Tito Centi, O.P. La Somma Teologica, ed. Salani, vol. XIX, nota 1, p. 247.
Suarez, F. De Legibus, 1. VI, c. VIII, n. 1.
Fr. Tito Centi, O.P. La Somma Teologica, ed. Salani, vol. XIX, nota 1, p. 247.
Naz, Dictionnaire Droit Canonique, cit. “epikie.”
Suarez, F. De Legibus, L. VI, c. VII, n. 11.
Suarez, F. De Statu Perfectiones/De Voto Oboedentiae, L. X, c. IV, n. 15.
Ibid.
Suarez, F. De Legibus, L. VI, c. VIII, n. 2.
For a comprehensive presentation of the issues of obedience, necessity, and epikeia relative to the case of Archbishop Lefebvre, please seethe Remnant article “On the Doctrine of Necessity by “Hirpinus” (revised/re-edited by the present author), the first installment of which appeared in the May 31, 2004 edition, from which these passages and quotations have been freely borrowed. Alternatively, see the July and Sept., 1999 issues of SiSiNoNo “The 1988 Consecrations: A Theological

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Sat Jul 14, 2007 12:13 am
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Sean Paul Johnson wrote:
Archbishop Lefebvre, then, under the duty of obedience first to higher precepts of divine natural and positive law, was bound “not to observe the law, whether he asks of does not ask permission from the superior.” As regards obtaining permission from the pope in such circumstances, Suarez explains that:

“In such a case the authority of the superior cannot have any effect; indeed, even if he were to will that the subject, after having had recourse to him, should observe the law, the latter would not be able to obey him because he must obey God rather than man, and hence in such a situation it is out of place (“impertinens”) to ask permission.”


The problem with this is that there is no divine law binding Archbishop Lefebvre to consecrate a bishop against the orders of someone he believed to be the Pope. In point of fact, he went against another divine law. According to Pius XII:

Quote:
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" (Ad Apostolorum Principis, 41)


A sacrilege is a sin. It violates the divine law, and in this case the action attacks the prerogative of a Roman Pontiff to appoint bishops which he has by divine right.

Of course, the SSPX would be quick to point out that there are cases where a bishop can be licitly ordained without papal mandate. But Pius XII answered this point as well:

Quote:
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. - Ibid, 38


Frankly, the SSPX's application of epikeia would lead the Church into anarchy. For what heretic or schismatic in history hasn't ever thought that their rebellion was not somehow justified by some higher law than that established through the Church?


Sat Jul 14, 2007 2:13 am
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Domini Canis wrote:
Sean Paul Johnson wrote:
Archbishop Lefebvre, then, under the duty of obedience first to higher precepts of divine natural and positive law, was bound “not to observe the law, whether he asks of does not ask permission from the superior.” As regards obtaining permission from the pope in such circumstances, Suarez explains that:

“In such a case the authority of the superior cannot have any effect; indeed, even if he were to will that the subject, after having had recourse to him, should observe the law, the latter would not be able to obey him because he must obey God rather than man, and hence in such a situation it is out of place (“impertinens”) to ask permission.”


The problem with this is that there is no divine law binding Archbishop Lefebvre to consecrate a bishop against the orders of someone he believed to be the Pope. In point of fact, he went against another divine law. According to Pius XII:

Quote:
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" (Ad Apostolorum Principis, 41)



A sacrilege is a sin. It violates the divine law, and in this case the action attacks the prerogative of a Roman Pontiff to appoint bishops which he has by divine right.

Of course, the SSPX would be quick to point out that there are cases where a bishop can be licitly ordained without papal mandate. But Pius XII answered this point as well:

Quote:
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. - Ibid, 38


Frankly, the SSPX's application of epikeia would lead the Church into anarchy. For what heretic or schismatic in history hasn't ever thought that their rebellion was not somehow justified by some higher law than that established through the Church?



Greetings:

Thank you for your comments on my article. In your response, I perceive at least five doctrinal errors, which I shall now enumerate and rebut.

1) As to the assertion that there was no divine law binding Archbishop Lefebvre to proceed with the episcopal consecrations, as against the "no" of the pope:

Who is responsible for helping souls in the state of necessity? By way of justice (ex officio) it belongs to the legitimate pastors, but if, for any reason, their help happens to be lacking, this duty falls, by way of charity (ex caritatis) , upon anyone who has the possibility of offering help. St. Alphonsus and Suarez observe that the power of order adds to the duty of charity a duty of state, that is, the duty of the sacerdotal state -instituted by Our Lord precisely for assisting the spiritual needs of souls. Note that the duty of charity imposed by the need of souls is a duty under pain of mortal sin. In fact, the greatest commandment, the commandment of charity, obliges coming to the aid of one's neighbor in necessity, especially spiritual. The duty is plain, then: Perform the consecrations to provide Catholic priests to come to the aid of those in spiritual necessity, of commit a mortal sin of omission (i.e., omitting the duty rooted in the sacerdotal and episcopal state).

2) As to the assertion that the episcopal consecrations constituted a sacrilege, according to the doctrine of Pope Pius XII:

A good rule of thumb to reading the disciplinary proclamations of the popes is to understand, a priori, that they consider those situations and circumstances which occur most ordinarily, and necessarily leave out of consideration those exceptional occurrences which occur only rarely. This is why the body of doctrine found in moral theology called "causes excusing from obedience to superiors and laws" can exist at all.

But the proof is in the pudding: We have countless examples of clandestine episcopal consecrations coming down to us from behind the Iron Curtain; we have the example of St. Eusebius of Samasota not only traveling throughout North Africal consecrating bishops during the Arian heresy, but also establishing them in episcopal sees, though Peter being unadvised.

Now no sane and pius man has ever attempted to label such consecrations, carried out in a state of grave spiritual necessity and in heroic circumstances, "sacrilegeous," least of all Pius XII.

How is this possible in light of Pius XII's legislation (and the answer cannot be that these actions occurred prior to Pius XII, lest we implicitly assert that Pius XII invented new doctrine by retroactively annulling all causes excusing from obedience and laws)? Simply this: The state of necessity carries with it its own dispensation, because necessity is not subject to the law (St. Thomas).

This being so, the 1988 consecrations, being carried out under a state of grave spiritual necessity in which the faithful were -and are- without hope of help from their legitimate pastors, were not only not sacrilegeous, but righteous.

3) As to the assertion that the pope appoints bishops by divine right:

This comment shows a great ignorance of ecclesiastical history. The perrogative of episcopal appointments being reserved to the Holy See was introduced belatedly into the Church, and was not universal until the 15th century (and this only for the Latin Church)! Therefore, if it is by divine right that only the Holy See can appoint episcopal candidates, the Church Herself has continuously violated this divine ordinance, which is ridiculous.

4) As to the assertion that participation in the selection of episcopal ordinands is permissible only by express permission of the Holy See:

Refer to #2 above.

5) As to the idea that the SSPX's application of epikeia would lead to anarchy in the Church:

Your beef here is not with the SSPX (much as you would like it to be), but with the notion of epikeia itself. Epikeia neither causes nor permits anarchy. The doctrine allows only the means to remove the person of persons from grave spiritual or material necessity. What is done beyond this would be sinful.

6) As to the notion that the SSPX's application of epikeia resembles the actions of heretics and schismatics who conveniently claim a "higher law" for their rebellions:

Implicit in this comment is a condemnation of sedevacantism. If the doctrine of necessity and epikeia do not apply, we must all submit to atican II and the Novus Ordo. I don't think that is what you want.

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Sat Jul 14, 2007 3:43 am
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Domini Canis wrote:
The problem with this is that there is no divine law binding Archbishop Lefebvre to consecrate a bishop


I think one can construct the case that there was indeed such a law - the salvation of souls, which is the supreme law.


Domini Canis wrote:
against the orders of someone he believed to be the Pope. In point of fact, he went against another divine law.


I agree. But your assertion combined two points unnecessarily, in my opinion.


Domini Canis wrote:
Frankly, the SSPX's application of epikeia would lead the Church into anarchy. For what heretic or schismatic in history hasn't ever thought that their rebellion was not somehow justified by some higher law than that established through the Church?


I agree. This defence essentially places the government of the Church in the hands of any cleric who thinks that he sees why his superior is failing to govern well.

The proper defence of the Archbishop's actions are that the putative superior was doubtful, something which the Archbishop had publicly stated several times. On the day of the consecrations, Bishop de Castro Mayer said loudly to all who would listen, "We have no pope." There can be no disputing this fact - Mr. William Morgan (R.I.P.) heard it and reported it publicly soon afterwards, and last year I asked Fr. Schmidberger directly if he had heard it, and he affirmed that indeed the bishop had said those words at that time.

In the concrete circumstances of that time, I think it very difficult to argue that consecrating some bishops was clearly unlawful. I say this despite the fact that I fully agree that it is divine law that no bishop may be consecrated without a papal mandate, or at least the presumption of one. But the SSPX position then, and since, has been implicitly sedevacantist, and could not be anything else if the Fraternity was to continue to maintain and defend the Faith, and to bring the sacraments to the faithful. Whatever the technical status one imagines JP2 to have held, "materially" pope, actually pope, or definitely not pope (i.e. partially sedevacantist, wholly sedeplenist, or totally sedevacantist), it was beyond dispute that JP2 was not governing the Church in any meaningful way. If he had ever been pope (which I deny), he had abandoned any pretence at acting as one. Whatever formulations people have used over the years to try to express this and defend the traditional Catholic resistance, this is at bottom what it was and how it was justifiable. Paul VI handing over the papal tiara to be sold for the poor (along with his pectoral cross) was a richly symbolic act - as symbolic as JP2's refusal to be crowned at all. Catholics who noted these things and acted in a manner which was coherent with them were hardly violating any real authority, because no such authority was ever cogently claimed. The most that the V2 nopes ever did in this regard was occasionally (as a pure act of hypocrisy) posture as Catholic popes for the purpose of enacting some tyranny over traditionalists. Even to relate it is feel a powerful revulsion for their hypocritical malice.

It is no answer to this to point out that Archbishop Levebvre did not on that day declare the See vacant or declare the claim of JP2 doubtful, for two reasons - first, justice is not determined by what men claim, but by what objectively is. Second, even if one were to retreat to judging the internal forum (i.e. the subjective dispositions of the Archbishop) which of course is not necessary or lawful anyway, we would still have to grant that the Archbishop was less than certain about JP2's claim to the papacy - even if he never drew what seems to us to be the logical conclusion from that view.

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Sat Jul 14, 2007 3:45 am
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John Lane wrote:
I say this despite the fact that I fully agree that it is divine law that no bishop may be consecrated without a papal mandate, or at least the presumption of one.


Hello John:

I think we must have been writing at the same time. Please see my explanation to Domini Canis on this point above.

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Sat Jul 14, 2007 3:52 am
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Certainly the matter cannot be one of divine law if it was not introduced into the 15th century (and then, only fot the Latin Church), lest the Church Herself had been violating divine law for 15 centuries.

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SSPXER wrote:
we have the example of St. Eusebius of Samasota not only traveling throughout North Africal consecrating bishops during the Arian heresy, but also establishing them in episcopal sees, though Peter being unadvised.

Can you please point me to a source for this? I have long criticised traditional Catholics' use of Newman's "The Arians of the Fourth Century" on the grounds that he was an Anglican when he wrote it and therefore did not grasp the significance of the various actions taken by the key parties at the time. This point you make would be a really excellent concrete example exposing Newman's key error - viz. that despite their open heresy, the Arian bishops remained lawfully in possession of their sees.


SSPXER wrote:
3) As to the assertion that the pope appoints bishops by divine right:

This comment shows a great ignorance of ecclesiastical history. The perrogative of episcopal appointments being reserved to the Holy See was introduced belatedly into the Church, and was not universal until the 15th century (and this only for the Latin Church)! Therefore, if it is by divine right that only the Holy See can appoint episcopal candidates, the Church Herself has continuously violated this divine ordinance, which is ridiculous.

You are mistaken, I think. The fact that Rome was content with a merely implicit approval in many cases does not constitute a "violation" of divine law. It merely constitutes a mode of applying it.


SSPXER wrote:
6) As to the notion that the SSPX's application of epikeia resembles the actions of heretics and schismatics who conveniently claim a "higher law" for their rebellions:

Implicit in this comment is a condemnation of sedevacantism. If the doctrine of necessity and epikeia do not apply, we must all submit to atican II and the Novus Ordo. I don't think that is what you want.

Agreed. I have made the same point many times. Any doctrine which denies the lawfulness of the traditional Catholic resistance outside of a declaration of "sede vacante" is an assault on that entire resistance until relatively late in its course. You will note that those who push such dangerous arguments never answer criticisms of them.

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Sat Jul 14, 2007 3:55 am
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Hello John:

As to the veracity of the historical accounts claiming that St. Eusebius consecrated and installed bishops in diocesan sees during the Arian heresy: see V. Manlio Simonetti "La Crisi Ariana Nel IV Secolo" (Institutum Patristicum Augustianum). The book was published in 1975, but the Augustianum has solid scholarly reputation for patristics even in the Novus Ordo era.

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"You are mistaken, I think. The fact that Rome was content with a merely implicit approval in many cases does not constitute a "violation" of divine law. It merely constitutes a mode of applying it. "

Hello Again John:

Sticking with the example of St. Eusebius of Samasota: How could one presume implicit approval of the Holy See when St. Eusebius was traveling throughout the dioceses establishing bishops against those installed by the Holy See?

Nevertheless, the point was that today (and only since the 15th century, and only in the Latin Church) the appointment of bishops is the province of the Holy See. Yesterday it was not. It therefore stands that this is a disciplinary measure, and not a divine precept (lest the Church Herself repeatedly violate the precept). If the pope wanted to leave the appointment of bishops to the national episcopal conferences, he could certainly do so (more evidence that this is a disciplinary measure introduced to curb abuses, and not a command from Jesus Christ).

Now, if you want to say that delegating appointment of bishops to the bishops conferences still constitutes implicit approval (which it does), well, sure. But this gets our friend Domini Canis nowhere in his argument that all consecrations must be EXPRESSLY approved by the Holy See according to the discipline of Pius XII. The above example of St. Eusebius alone disproves the argument.

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Sat Jul 14, 2007 4:26 am
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SSPXER wrote:
As to the veracity of the historical accounts claiming that St. Eusebius consecrated and installed bishops in diocesan sees during the Arian heresy: see V. Manlio Simonetti "La Crisi Ariana Nel IV Secolo" (Institutum Patristicum Augustianum). The book was published in 1975, but the Augustianum has solid scholarly reputation for patristics even in the Novus Ordo era.


OK, do you have the book, or access to it, and could you possibly scan the relevant pages and email them to me please? Or have you borrowed the information from another researcher?

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Sat Jul 14, 2007 4:49 am
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SSPXER wrote:
Sticking with the example of St. Eusebius of Samasota: How could one presume implicit approval of the Holy See when St. Eusebius was traveling throughout the dioceses establishing bishops against those installed by the Holy See?


Merely by noting the doctrine that Bellarmine tells us was universally held and taught by the Fathers, which is that a manifest heretic automatically loses any offices he possesses, which is a point of divine law codified in Canon 188, 4. That takes care of the bishops originally appointed by Rome. The presumed approval of Rome - i.e. the implicit approval of Rome - takes care of the fact that Rome's approval is required by divine law. This is not really open to debate, anyway, I think, since Pius XII dealt with it in an encyclical or other major document. I'll dig something out later.


SSPXER wrote:
But this gets our friend Domini Canis nowhere in his argument that all consecrations must be EXPRESSLY approved by the Holy See according to the discipline of Pius XII. The above example of St. Eusebius alone disproves the argument.


I agree. I'm on your side in terms of the practical conclusion - I'm disagreeing with you in the theoretical foundation of it.

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Hi SSPXer,

Are you sure my errors are doctrinal rather than merely a misapplication of correct Catholic principles on a given canonical situation? I take such charges seriously, you see. :D

In response to your first point: How does one objectively determine what constitutes a state of necessity? Is there anything 'in the books' that would necessitate disobeying a pope who's command: a) has a grave divine right behind it, b) the disobedience of which would incur the sin of sacrilege, and c) the following of which would NOT violate any divine law?

The substance of the rest of your response amounts to saying that we have an obligation in charity to help out the salvation of our neighbors' souls (and I agree). But this does not give anyone the right to over-step canonical rules. I cannot, for instance, go out as a layman and seek ordination from a schismatic Old Catholic Church, and then start my own independent chapel because I personally saw the need to help souls out. There are rules in place (like the proper seminary training required), and these things cannot be simply written off on the basis of epikeia.

In response to your second point: I agree that bishops can be ordained without papal mandate in some circumstances. But your response here makes the presupposition that this applied to Lefebvre, and in response to that I posed a few questions above.

When it comes to the consecrations behind the Iron Curtain, I have to plead ignorance here. Do you know if Rome had ever specifically forbidden the consecrations of such bishops without papal mandate? Because this would be very different from Lefebvre's situation. In Lefebvre's case, he did not merely ordained bishops without papal mandate, but he ordained bishops against the orders of someone he recognized as the Supreme Pastor of the Church.

In response to your third point: It is not my claim that "...only the Holy See can appoint episcopal candidates". What I said was that the Pope appoints bishops by divine right.

In response to your fifth point: As I understand it, my problem is not with epikia (since I admitted there are situations where a bishop can be licitly ordained without papal mandate) but with the application of it in the case of Lefebvre.

In response to your last point: the difference between the sedevacantist and the SSPX is that the former does not recognize the post-conciliar popes as valid popes, and therefore acts consistently towards recognized lawful authority. The SSPX, in my estimation, do not.


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Hi all,

I think that this article from the April 1949, issue of AER, by Msgr. Fenton, may assist in this discussion. The article is a careful explanation of the teaching of Pope Pius XII, on the "the immediate source of episcopal jurisdiction within the Catholic Church." (from the text).

I realize that the SSPX bishops are not claiming jurisdiction, but it may be worthwhile for Catholics to grasp this very important teaching of Pius XII, which if it is misunderstood, could lead to Gallican ideas. Actually, Msgr. Fenton cites two prominent Gallican authorities as those who are in opposition to the correct Catholic doctrine in the article.

http://www.catholicresponse.net/episcop ... iction.htm

Yours in JMJ,

Mike


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Domini Canis wrote:
Hi SSPXer,

Are you sure my errors are doctrinal rather than merely a misapplication of correct Catholic principles on a given canonical situation? I take such charges seriously, you see. :D

In response to your first point: How does one objectively determine what constitutes a state of necessity? Is there anything 'in the books' that would necessitate disobeying a pope who's command: a) has a grave divine right behind it, b) the disobedience of which would incur the sin of sacrilege, and c) the following of which would NOT violate any divine law?

The substance of the rest of your response amounts to saying that we have an obligation in charity to help out the salvation of our neighbors' souls (and I agree). But this does not give anyone the right to over-step canonical rules. I cannot, for instance, go out as a layman and seek ordination from a schismatic Old Catholic Church, and then start my own independent chapel because I personally saw the need to help souls out. There are rules in place (like the proper seminary training required), and these things cannot be simply written off on the basis of epikeia.

In response to your second point: I agree that bishops can be ordained without papal mandate in some circumstances. But your response here makes the presupposition that this applied to Lefebvre, and in response to that I posed a few questions above.

When it comes to the consecrations behind the Iron Curtain, I have to plead ignorance here. Do you know if Rome had ever specifically forbidden the consecrations of such bishops without papal mandate? Because this would be very different from Lefebvre's situation. In Lefebvre's case, he did not merely ordained bishops without papal mandate, but he ordained bishops against the orders of someone he recognized as the Supreme Pastor of the Church.

In response to your third point: It is not my claim that "...only the Holy See can appoint episcopal candidates". What I said was that the Pope appoints bishops by divine right.

In response to your fifth point: As I understand it, my problem is not with epikia (since I admitted there are situations where a bishop can be licitly ordained without papal mandate) but with the application of it in the case of Lefebvre.

In response to your last point: the difference between the sedevacantist and the SSPX is that the former does not recognize the post-conciliar popes as valid popes, and therefore acts consistently towards recognized lawful authority. The SSPX, in my estimation, do not.


Good Morning! As to your latest questions:

1) "How does one objectively determine what constitutes necessity?"

Answer: There really is no mystery behind it, and all pre-Vatican II treatises on moral theology list the objective criterion of the 5 different types of necessity. Thy species of necessity we are dealing with here is called grave and general spiritual necessity. Grave general spiritual necessity is present when A) Several souls find themselves threatened; B) In spiritual goods of great importance (e.g., faith or morals); C) And are without hope of help on the part of their legitimate pastors. When these three conditions are present, you have a state of necessity. Applying them to the present state of the Church, it is clear necessity is present: Grave, because faith and morals have been threatened; general, because spiritual goods, indispensable to salvation have been threatened amongst a large portion of the Christian people.

2) "Is there anything in the books which would necessitate disobeying a pope's command which comes to him as a divine right?"

Answer: Read my original article again. The doctrines of necessity and epikeia are doctrines "in the books" which excuse from obedience to superiors and laws. Also, drop the "divine right" claim of the pope to appoint bishops. To this day, the pope doesn't appoint the bishops in the oriental Catholic churches, and didn't do so in the Latin Church until the 15th century. Or perhaps we had a 15 century period of sedevacantism until he reserved the right to himself, thereby restoring the true Church?

3) "We have an obligation in charity to help those in necessity, but this does not allow us to overstep canonical laws."

Answer: Wrong. This is precisely what causes excusing from obedience and superiors do. All laws ore ordered to the salvation of souls, not the salvation of souls to the laws.

4) "Archbishop Lefebvre's situation is not the same as bishops being consecrated behind the Iron Curtain or during the Arian heresy by St. Eusebius of Samasota; They were consecrated without papal; mandate, but not against the "no" of one whose authority to govern the recognized."

Answer: We concede that St. Eusebius was not faced with the "no" of a pope who promoted and favored Arianism, and demanded respect for laws which would have deprived of help souls placed in grave spiritual necessity. But, had St. Eusebius found himself in that position, he would have had to follow the moral principles recounted above and to fulfill, not against the pope's "no," but despite the pope's "no," the most serious duty of charity laid upon his episcopacy by the grave and general necessity of souls.

5) Regarding al alleged inconsistency in the SSPX's recognition of the papacy of the post-Vatican II popes, and their resistence to lawfully recognized authority:

Answer: Implicit in this assertion is the idea that, if a pope is recognized, every command of his whatsoever must be obeyed, which is ridiculous.

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Sat Jul 14, 2007 12:21 pm
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New post Re: Episcopal Jursidiction and the Roman See
Mike wrote:
I think that this article from the April 1949, issue of AER, by Msgr. Fenton, may assist in this discussion.


Dear Mike,

Yes, that's what I was intending to "dig up." Thanks!

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Sat Jul 14, 2007 12:55 pm
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New post Re: Episcopal Jursidiction and the Roman See
John Lane wrote:
Mike wrote:
I think that this article from the April 1949, issue of AER, by Msgr. Fenton, may assist in this discussion.


Dear Mike,

Yes, that's what I was intending to "dig up." Thanks!


Unless the article discusses episcopal consecrations during a state of necessity, it will not be on point.

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Sat Jul 14, 2007 4:29 pm
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Mike,

Excellent article, thanks for linking it.

SSPXer,

The basic reasoning behind your justification of Lefebvre's disobedience is that what he did was necessary for the salvation of souls. Your recent response, however, is just a repeat of what you previously told me (and what I am already well aware of); only now you add three conditions set forth for "grave spiritual necessity" that you believe apply to Lefebvre. The problem with this is that -as I told you- I don't believe this applied to Lefebvre. You have to understand, you cannot merely assume that laws do not apply to a particular individual just because that individual believes his actions are necessary in saving souls. To further emphasis this point, I gave you an example of how I cannot go out and seek ordination from an Old Catholic Bishop, and then run my own independent chapel once I am ordained just because I believe there is a state of necessity (do you believe that such actions are justifiable?). To even further get the point across, let me now quote Pius XII who anticipated the same argument you are now making, which the bishops of the patriotic association had also made:

Quote:
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?

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. - Ad Apostolorum Principis, 49, 50.


Note that Pius XII was aware that the bishops felt like they "had to" receive those illicit ordinations because they felt the need to "tend to the souls" who were without a Shepard. But Pius XII plainly told them that violation of the church's law is contradictory to the "spiritual good of the faithful".

Now let me address the issue of the Pope having a divine right to appoint bishops. You are confusing two things: 1) the fact that the Pope has a divine right to appoint bishops (which is undeniable), and 2) the assertion that the Pope has to explicitly appoint every bishop in order for the appointment to be licit. The first assertion is what I believe, the second assertion is false and a straw man. I do not believe the Holy Father has to explicitly appoint every bishop. Once again, I admitted there are exceptions. Therefore, the examples of the oriental churches and the previous discipline of the Church do not pose a problem for me. In fact, allow me to quote Pius XII another time:

Quote:
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. - Ibid, 43


In summery: even though in the past bishops were ordained without papal mandate, it is now no long valid to appeal to such practices because the supreme authority of the church has now decreed otherwise.

Moving on to the concept of epikeia. Epikeia is not merely an excuse from obeying a superior. More accurately it is a benign interpretation of a law in a particular case given that the circumstances were unforeseen by the lawmaker. If epikea does necessitate disobedience from a superior, it is only when the superior commands something "contrary to another command or virtue which is more binding" (lest you appeal again to the salvation of souls, I refer you to the excuses made by the patriotic association, and the answers given by Pius XII). And it was precisely this reason that I asked you question "c": Is there anything 'in the books' that would necessitate disobeying a pope who's command...the following of which would NOT violate any divine law?

Finally, regarding my implicit assertion that when a Pope is recognized everything he says must be obeyed: let me explicitly say this is not true. We are not bound to obey a Pope when he asks us to do something sinful. In instances such as those we must follow God rather than man. But I continue to hold that if one recognizes a pope as legitimate, you must follow the commands that he has a divine right to -- and preeminent among these are the appointment of bishops.


Sat Jul 14, 2007 5:20 pm
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Domini Canis wrote:
Quote:
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?

It is obvious that no thought is being taken of the spiritual good of the faithful if the Church's laws are being violated


DC, whatever other merit your arguments have, this quote is beside the point. Laws are always "violated" by the application of epikeia, in the sense that you are reading the word "violated".


Domini Canis wrote:
Note that Pius XII was aware that the bishops felt like they "had to" receive those illicit ordinations because they felt the need to "tend to the souls" who were without a Shepard. But Pius XII plainly told them that violation of the church's law is contradictory to the "spiritual good of the faithful".

Yes, and they were wrong. This is a question of judgement.

Can I ask you both to state clearly that you appreciate which judgement that you are making and arguing for? Is it the judgement of whether or not the actions of Archbishop Lefebvre actually violated the law? That is, are you discussing the question of whether these acts were objectively wrong? Or are you judging the interior dispositions of Archbishop Lefebvre, with a view to convicting him, or acquiting him, of sin? That is, are you discussing the question of whether there was a subjective sin, apart from the objective realities?

Or, as a third possibility, DC, are you in fact only pointing out that it would have more consistent to have declared the See vacant at the time of the consecrations? (Which was in fact the instinct of de Castro Mayer). In other words, you're not alleging any (objective) crime, or even any (subjective) sin, but rather putting the old argument that the best solution to the "problem of authority" is sedevacantism. Is that it perhaps?


Quote:
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. - Ibid, 43

Just to ensure clarity here, Archbishop Lefebvre never cited any ancient custom. He cited "necessity."


Domini Canis wrote:
Finally, regarding my implicit assertion that when a Pope is recognized everything he says must be obeyed: let me explicitly say this is not true. We are not bound to obey a Pope when he asks us to do something sinful. In instances such as those we must follow God rather than man. But I continue to hold that if one recognizes a pope as legitimate, you must follow the commands that he has a divine right to -- and preeminent among these are the appointment of bishops.

I agree with this. Which is why I think you must bring in the concrete circumstances in which all of the world's definitely canonical bishops were apparently unavailable for the really essential purpose of bringing the sacraments to the faithful. Not in order to argue that it is per se lawful to consecrate a bishop against the express will of the Roman Pontiff, but rather to point out that the uncertain element in the whole chain was the authority of the claimant in Rome. If Bishop de Castro Mayer's actions on the day do not highlight this fact then nothing ever would.

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Sat Jul 14, 2007 10:22 pm
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John Lane wrote:
Laws are always "violated" by the application of epikeia, in the sense that you are reading the word "violated".


I do not agree that this is the sense I am reading the word 'violated'.

As I admitted to SSPXER, laws can be violated in certain situations: "More accurately [epikeia] is a benign interpretation of a law in a particular case given that the circumstances were unforeseen by the lawmaker. If epikea does necessitate disobedience from a superior, it is only when the superior commands something 'contrary to another command or virtue which is more binding'"

The quote from Pius XII was meant to show that even the bishops of the patriotic association thought they were doing something necessary for the good of souls. But epikeia did not apply with them --as I'm certain it cannot apply with Lefebvre-- since there are concrete limits as to how the principle of epikeia is applied.

John Lane wrote:
Can I ask you both to state clearly that you appreciate which judgment that you are making and arguing for? Is it the judgement of whether or not the actions of Archbishop Lefebvre actually violated the law? That is, are you discussing the question of whether these acts were objectively wrong? Or are you judging the interior dispositions of Archbishop Lefebvre, with a view to convicting him, or acquiting him, of sin? That is, are you discussing the question of whether there was a subjective sin, apart from the objective realities?


What I am trying to argue is that from the vantage point of someone who believed JPII was pope, the action of ordaining bishops against a papal instruction were objectively wrong. By implication, I am also arguing that sedevacantism is more consistant in its view of papal authority than the SSPX.

Let me ask you in turn, John, if you believe that it is proper to treat a true pope with such disobedience as Lefebvre did (puting aside his confusion and good will which I do not question)? Look at it from the point of view of the SSPX as a whole today: they believe the post conciliar popes are true popes to the point of having disdain for the sedevacantist position. However, look at how they treat John Paul II and Benedict XVI. In all honesty, don't you think this sets a dangerous precedence for Catholics -- especially for Catholics in the future? Picture for a moment in the future some disgrunted ecclesiastic rebelling against a true pope because he believes the choices of the candidates are not up to par - and what's more he uses the example of a certain Archbishop Lefebvre in the past to justify his actions!

At the very least, if we are going to defend Lefebvre's disobedience, at least make it so that there are precise limits to epikeia, and show how Lefebvre was well within those limits. That way, the dignity of the papal primacy is safeguarded against any appeals by real disobedients on the pretext of doing something necessary for the good of soul.

John Lane wrote:
Which is why I think you must bring in the concrete circumstances in which all of the world's definitely canonical bishops were apparently unavailable for the really essential purpose of bringing the sacraments to the faithful. Not in order to argue that it is per se lawful to consecrate a bishop against the express will of the Roman Pontiff, but rather to point out that the uncertain element in the whole chain was the authority of the claimant in Rome.


I think you brought up an interesting argument in the case of Lefebvre not being certain about the legitimacy of the Pope, and therefore this somehow exonerates him. For the sake of argument, though, if Lefebvre was without a doubt certain that JPII was a true Pope, do you believe such a disobedience (looked at objectively) was justified?


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New post Re: Episcopal Jursidiction and the Roman See
SSPXER wrote:
John Lane wrote:
Mike wrote:
I think that this article from the April 1949, issue of AER, by Msgr. Fenton, may assist in this discussion.


Dear Mike,

Yes, that's what I was intending to "dig up." Thanks!


Unless the article discusses episcopal consecrations during a state of necessity, it will not be on point.


Have you read it? If not, how can you comment about it?

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Sat Jul 14, 2007 11:28 pm
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Domini Canis wrote:
If epikea does necessitate disobedience from a superior, it is only when the superior commands something 'contrary to another command or virtue which is more binding'"

Well, in this you are definitely in agreement with SSPXER (and with me).


Domini Canis wrote:
The quote from Pius XII was meant to show that even the bishops of the patriotic association thought they were doing something necessary for the good of souls. But epikeia did not apply with them --as I'm certain it cannot apply with Lefebvre-- since there are concrete limits as to how the principle of epikeia is applied.

Yes, but the whole disagreement is over where those limits are. We all agree that the actions of the Chinese Communists were wrong and in fact indefensible. The accidental similarities with the case of Archbishop Lefebvre and Bishop de Castro Mayer cannot be used to produce an appearance of equivalence. That would be unreasonable and therefore unjust.


Domini Canis wrote:
What I am trying to argue is that from the vantage point of someone who believed JPII was pope, the action of ordaining bishops against a papal instruction were objectively wrong.

Let's get our "objectives" and "subjectives" in the right places. The following do not apply to any person in particular - they are for illustrative purposes only. "From the point of view" = "subjective." It relates to the subject, not the object. As far as the subject was concerned, his actions were lawful = subjectively, there was no sin. However, since he was mistaken about the principles/facts/interpretation his actions were in fact objectively unlawful = objectively they were sinful. That is, if he had understood properly, he would have seen that he ought to act differently.

Now, it would seem from what you have written that you are essentially arguing that Archbishop Lefebvre sinned, because even though he thought JP2 was pope, he went ahead with something which is never permissible in such circumstances (i.e. when a true pope is forbidding one to act in such a way). That is, you are judging the Archbishop's subjective dispositions. This is unlawful but also useless. It amounts to forming a judgement in the internal forum - that is, the forum of conscience. We are not to judge in the internal forum, but only in the external forum, and only insofar as the latter is really necessary.


Domini Canis wrote:
By implication, I am also arguing that sedevacantism is more consistant in its view of papal authority than the SSPX.

I understand. On this we agree. But on the particular point here, which is whether or not the consecrations ought to have been carried out, I suspect we disagree. Even if I was not a sedevacantist I would not disagree with the Archbishop's actions. I think they really were necessary.


Domini Canis wrote:
Let me ask you in turn, John, if you believe that it is proper to treat a true pope with such disobedience as Lefebvre did (puting aside his confusion and good will which I do not question)?

I don't think it is accurate to speak of Archbishop Lefebvre's "confusion." He was not confused. He was (I think) mistaken in his judgement that JP2 was pope, but this was not properly speaking a point of confusion. Really to appreciate this you would need to see how the difficulties entailed by our position are apparent to a learned cleric. Or, to put this in different terms, the cause of the confidence displayed by many sedevacantists is their own ignorance. This is especially true of many laymen.


Domini Canis wrote:
Look at it from the point of view of the SSPX as a whole today: they believe the post conciliar popes are true popes to the point of having disdain for the sedevacantist position.

Actually, their disdain is usually for sedevacantists, not our position. This is one of the reasons that I put so much effort into trying to get otherwise-reasonable men to prove carefully their more extreme positions. Our apologetical effort with the SSPX is definitely harmed by our own behaviour.


Domini Canis wrote:
However, look at how they treat John Paul II and Benedict XVI. In all honesty, don't you think this sets a dangerous precedence for Catholics -- especially for Catholics in the future? Picture for a moment in the future some disgrunted ecclesiastic rebelling against a true pope because he believes the choices of the candidates are not up to par - and what's more he uses the example of a certain Archbishop Lefebvre in the past to justify his actions!

Well, it depends on how it is presented. I certainly agree that the danger is real. But there is danger the other way too. There really is a danger that sedevacantists will rupture the unity of the Church by cutting off communiuon with those who fail to agree with their personal judgement of the situation. This has not only happened many times, but continues to occur, and even in cases where the subjective dispositions are beyond any possibility of reproach. These are not reasons to be either sedeplenist or sedevacantist - but they are reasons to be modest and cautious.


Domini Canis wrote:
At the very least, if we are going to defend Lefebvre's disobedience, at least make it so that there are precise limits to epikeia, and show how Lefebvre was well within those limits. That way, the dignity of the papal primacy is safeguarded against any appeals by real disobedients on the pretext of doing something necessary for the good of soul.

I see this, and I agree with you. It is exactly what I am trying to do with our friend the SSPXer here. He needs to be more thorough in his treatment of the distinctions in view, and assist us to nail down exactly where the limits are. The concrete limits will always be a question of individual judgements, of course, but the abstract ones should be able to be expressed with precision.


Domini Canis wrote:
I think you brought up an interesting argument in the case of Lefebvre not being certain about the legitimacy of the Pope, and therefore this somehow exonerates him.

Do you see why this makes me nervous? We are not looking to "exonerate" or "condemn" anybody in the internal forum. We are looking to assess actual realities. Was the act, in the circumstances in which it occurred, wrong? I think, "no."

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Sun Jul 15, 2007 12:06 am
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New post Re: Episcopal Jursidiction and the Roman See
KenGordon wrote:
SSPXER wrote:
John Lane wrote:
Mike wrote:
I think that this article from the April 1949, issue of AER, by Msgr. Fenton, may assist in this discussion.


Dear Mike,

Yes, that's what I was intending to "dig up." Thanks!


Unless the article discusses episcopal consecrations during a state of necessity, it will not be on point.


Have you read it? If not, how can you comment about it?


Ooh, that was a good one.

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John Lane wrote:
SSPXER wrote:
As to the veracity of the historical accounts claiming that St. Eusebius consecrated and installed bishops in diocesan sees during the Arian heresy: see V. Manlio Simonetti "La Crisi Ariana Nel IV Secolo" (Institutum Patristicum Augustianum). The book was published in 1975, but the Augustianum has solid scholarly reputation for patristics even in the Novus Ordo era.


OK, do you have the book, or access to it, and could you possibly scan the relevant pages and email them to me please? Or have you borrowed the information from another researcher?


I noticed with disappointment that these questions were not answered.

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DC, I've been pondering this to see if I can express the point a little better.

Domini Canis wrote:
What I am trying to argue is that from the vantage point of someone who believed JPII was pope, the action of ordaining bishops against a papal instruction were objectively wrong.


Firstly, can you see that you are mixing the subjective and objective views here? Essentially this sentence is "Subjectively, the action was objectively wrong." That is not a cogent comment. Even though yes, I know what you mean by it. :)

Secondly, why is it necesary or useful to argue this point? What do you achieve if you convince somebody?

Let's put some questions and see how they could be answered, even if only for the sake of the exercise. I think it might assist to clarify a few things for those who have spent too long reading rhetoric posing as theology (e.g. "schismatic either way you slice it"). I'm not suggesting that you come across like that, by the way. I'm using this as an opportunity to rub something in for those who need it rubbed in. :)

First question: What should the Archbishop have done, given the circumstances? I emphasise that I don't feel that it is my office to judge this matter, as I was not presented with the problem concretely, and I do not wish to enter into judgements of the internal forum. In other words, it was the Archbishop's problem - he was one of only two bishops to stand up for the faith and the Mass, and he was the one facing the concrete problem in 1988.

Answer: The Archbishop was in a state of practical doubt. He was not entirely sure that JP2 was pope. Consider his comments only two years before (i.e. 1986): "Now I don't know if the time has come to say that the Pope is a heretic; I don't know if it is the time to say that. You know, for some time many people, the sedevacantists, have been saying 'there is no more Pope,' but I think that for me it was not yet the time to say that, because it was not sure, it was not evident, it was very difficult to say that the Pope is a heretic, the Pope is apostate. But I recognize that slowly, very slowly, by the deeds and acts of the Pope himself we begin to be very anxious. "

Those are not the words of a man in possession of certitude about the validity of the claim of JP2 to the papacy.

The Archbishop also knew that he was going to die within a few years, perhaps sooner. The same was true of Bishop de Castro Mayer. To secure the supply of priests who would be properly formed to preach the faith and bring the sacraments to the faithful, the Church needed traditional Catholic bishops. There was no realistic possibility of these emerging from the Conciliar milieu. Thus there was an end in view which was, practically speaking, necessary.

So, the Archbishop was faced with a situation in which he felt obliged to act. Of course, to act in a state of doubt about the morality of the proposed action is unlawful. One must achieve certitude before acting. What were the possible elements of the required judgement?

1. Is JP2 the pope?
2. Has he forbidden the act of consecrating bishops?
3. Is it lawful to refuse to obey such a command even in circumstances of necessity?

Our friend SSPXER has argued that it is lawful to refuse to obey a pope even when forbidden to consecrate bishops, in a state of necessity. I have thought such an attitude tantamount to assuming the government of the Church. The Archbishop had consistently shown himself to be horrified by such a view of authority. I think it hardly needs to be said that SSPXER has failed to provide sufficient data to alter anybody's view on the point.

In any case, if the answer to #1 is "Maybe," then the answer to #2 becomes irrelevant, for the simple reason that a doubtful law does not bind. Question #3 becomes, as a result, unnecessary.

Second question: What is the morality of consecrating bishops against the will of a fake pope?
Answer: The approval or disapproval of a fake pope is irrelevant to the moral rectitude of such an act.

Third question: Should the Archbishop have considered possible scandal to the faithful who thought that he was disobeying a true pope?
Answer: Yes. And I am sure that he did. He was always very interested in this question, and I think it was the chief reason he did not proceed to solve his doubt about JP2 and declare the See vacant. He was above all a practical man. In this case he would have considered the possible effect of declaring the See vacant, and compared it with the possible effect of acting as he did without such a declaration. It is worth stopping to consider the fact that Bishop de Castro Mayer, the Archbishop's great friend and collaborator on this historic day, had formed his own judgement and decided that it was less scandalous to make a declaration of sede vacante, which he proceeded to do. Yet they remained close friends and collaborators, not permitting their difference of judgement to affect their relationship. Would that more men in positions of prominence could act so prudently, modestly, and charitably!

Now, returning to the question I asked above, "why is it necesary or useful to argue" about the rectitude of Archbishop Lefebvre's actions in 1988?

1. The Conciliarists have one, and only one, string to their bow - the apparent authority of Rome. When we thumb our noses at it they have lost everything. They feel this keenly, and thus any sign of insubordination is ruthlessly crushed, or if it proceeds undaunted, ruthlessly condemned after the fact.

2. Some sedevacantists think that if Archbishop Lefebvre can be convicted of crime, or sin, or inconsistency, or stupidity, or whatever, then they look better. Those are very small men. Watch out for them.

I think that's it. Does that assist in clarifying the whole issue?

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Open doubt about the validity of the claim of Paul VI to be pope:

“It appears to us much more certain that the faith taught by the Church over twenty centuries cannot contain error than that there is no absolute certainty that the Pope really is the pope. Heresy, schism, ipso facto excommunication, and the invalidity of the election are all potential reasons why a Pope was never really the pope or should cease to be the pope. In such a case, clearly a very exceptional one, the Church would find herself in a situation similar to that which she experiences after the decease of a Sovereign Pontiff. For, in a word, a very serious problem presents itself to the conscience and the faith of all Catholics since the beginning of the papacy of Paul VI. How is it that a Pope, the true successor of Peter, assured of the assistance of the Holy Ghost, could preside over the destruction of the Church, the most profound and extensive in her history, in such a short space of time, something which no heresiarch has ever succeeded in doing? To this question there will one day have to be a reply." (Declaration by Archbishop Lefebvre to Figaro, reproduced in Monde et Vie no 264, for 27 August 1976.)

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