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 Reservations on the New Rite of Episcopal Consecration 
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New post Reservations on the New Rite of Episcopal Consecration
A Brief Overview of Reservations on the
New Rite of Episcopal Consecration (NREC)
With an Additional Observation:
the Supposition of the Term Spiritus Principalis
in the Western Rites of the Church

Fr. Joseph Collins


The point has been well-insisted upon by Fr. Anthony Cekada, and held by all those who challenge the validity of Paul VI's new rite of episcopal consecration (NREC), that this 1968 revision has introduced a real ambiguity into what should constitute its sacramental form. While many of the traditional clergy argued for decades that the evident rationale for doubting the validity of the NREC was its radical departure from the form as laid down by Pius XII in Sacramentum Ordinis as both essential and sufficient, most of us were aware, by hearsay if nothing else, that the form of the NREC was not adopted verbatim from any one of the Oriental liturgies of the Church. It was not until the publication of the research done by Fr. Pierre-Marie and Fr. Cekada that the clergy was apprised, along with the laity, of just what transpired in the reformers' fabrication of their “chef-d'oeuvre.”

And a fabrication it is – a word most likely not found in theological tracts written on the sacraments. The NREC is manufactured, constructed, not handed down, as Fr. Cekada oft reminds us. It is not a clean adoption of an Eastern rite by a Western. One could hardly be expected to accept a rebuilt engine or transmission from an auto mechanic under analogous conditions.

Fr. Pierre-Marie would not agree – the modifications are slight, and what results is one of the Oriental forms in substance. If Fr. Pierre-Marie's conclusion is not 100% safe – morally certain to us in the world of theology – and were we to grant him an 83% probability of safety, the odds are no better than surviving a round of Russian Roulette. One can readily see why nothing but moral certitude may be used in the confection of the Sacraments of Holy Eucharist and Holy Orders.

Fr. Pierre-Marie's main argument seems to rest on the meaning and operative significance of the term spiritus principalis . This, he would have us believe, following the chief reformer Dom Botte, refers to the Holy Ghost as infusing the grace of the episcopacy, just as the terms spiritus consilii and spiritus zeli et fortitudinis denote the grace of the priesthood and of the diaconate, respectively. We are not shown the text of the ordination rite of either of these other orders – nor does Fr. Pierre-Marie cite any magisterial document upon which Dom Botte may be basing his assertion. Moreover no attempt is made to explain why spiritus is governed [!] by an adjective in the one case, and by nominals in the others. In effect, it may legitimately be asked:
1) Is the spiritus, as duly modified in each of these expressions, the Person Himself of the Holy Ghost, as the Infuser of these graces?
or… 2) Is the spiritus the created grace itself infused by the Holy Ghost?

Now if these terms, as they appear in the Eastern rites, are indeed operative in the transmission and reception of the graces of these respective orders, then there are satisfactory answers to the above questions. We just may not know what those answers are. But here we are reminded of the monition given by the authors of the Vindication of the Bull Apostolicae Curae, that "(I)n adhering rigidly to the rite handed down to us we can always feel secure; whereas, if we omit or change anything, we may perhaps be abandoning just that element which is essential."

A thought occurred to me some years ago on this whole question of the meaning of spiritus principalis. In the Preces (Special prayers recited in the Breviary on certain days), we say the following versicle and responsory, taken from Psalm 50 (translated): Render unto me the joy of Thy salvation; And strengthen me with Thy governing {guiding, willing} spirit. Now the Latin term used is the same term discussed above - spiritus principalis - and the context of the prayer is clear: it is meant to have the same meaning as it does in Psalm 50, inspired by God and written by King David as a plea for penance after his doubly-heinous sin.

How do we know this? There are three versicle/responsory pairings which precede it, all four of which occur in the same order as they do in Psalm 50. Allowing for a somewhat greater significance during the New Dispensation of grace that is the New Testament, there can be no doubt that this prayer, which all major clergy and many professed religious have been duty-bound to recite for centuries, has the same meaning for them relative to their sins as it did for King David relative to his.

And that same meaning has nothing to do with the grace of the order of the episcopacy. In other words, it can be argued that a Catholic who reads the Roman Breviary will assign one and only one supposition to the term spiritus principalis, and that is God's grace as strengthening, confirming in grace or resolution, or even God's Holy Ghost Himself as accomplishing this end.

So what is such a Catholic to make of anything when in 1969 (the year the NREC took effect) he attends the ceremony of the consecration of a bishop only to have it explained to him this is the new rite approved by Paul VI, and that instead of the form guaranteed by Pius XII in 1947 the new form takes its effect by virtue of the term spiritus principalis? Would he be out of line to ask how is this possible? Is it an Eastern rite? If the answer is “Yes”, he immediately understands: “The supposition of the term as used by that Eastern rite must be different from that of us Westerners: this often happens with language; the term has and always will have the same understanding in the context of its long-standing ceremonial and sacramental rite; and besides, the Holy Ghost infallibly guides the Church in these matters.” If the answer is “No, not exactly, but it's been re-worked and it's very similar to one of the Eastern rites”, he might respond: “I don't know – they changed this rite for a reason. I don't buy that aesthetic jargon. If they had wanted to make the claim that spiritus principalis is what makes a bishop, they should have kept it in the context in which it has that meaning. It remains altogether ambiguous to me, especially since I've been wondering about Vatican II since before it ended. Sayonara, and Lord, help us.”

Finally, hardly worthy of mention is the fact that, were the claim of the post-Vatican II claimants to the Petrine office not at least in dispute, a Catholic would not be allowed to harbor any doubt about such matters as we are dealing with. But it is precisely in the context of a Ecclesial viral infestation that we are confronted with this problem. And the Church's teaching, law and history are sufficiently evident to show us that a claim to the Papacy does not constitute its own vindication. The glimmerings given us by Our Lord Himself, by His Apostle St. Paul and by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church through the ages, have gained further illumination and sharper focus by eminent modern scholars such as Cardinal Manning, Fr. Sylvester Berry, and Fr. Edmund O'Reilly. But the masses may refuse to see, and rather prefer to acknowledge the emperor as having a new set of clothes.

“The prophecies of the Apocalypse show that Satan will imitate the Church of Christ to deceive mankind; he will set up a church of Satan in opposition to the Church of Christ. Antichrist will assume the role of Messias; his prophet will act the part of Pope, and there will be imitations of the Sacraments of the Church. There will also be lying wonders in imitation of the miracles wrought in the Church.” (Rev. E. Sylvester Berry, D.D., The Church of Christ, An Apologetic and Dogmatic Treatise. Herder, St. Louis and London, 1927 & 1941, p. 119)

And, “there seems to be no reason why a false Church might not become universal, even more universal than the true one, at least for a time.” (Berry, op. cit., p.155)


Sat Jan 24, 2015 6:00 am
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