Today I continue this series in trying to convince our traditional Bishops and Priests of the concept of "Accepting Responsibility." As noted in the first four segments: Part One - Is the Church Really a Rubber Room?, Part Two - Breaking the Illusion of Lawlessness, Part Three - Being Our Brother's Keeper, and last week To Be Trusted, True Fishers of Men Must Trust, this is an effort to refute all the arguments against the authority of our traditional clergy to act, guide, and rule in the Name of Holy Mother Church. Our traditional hierarchy can and must act, as only they can. For if they do not act, progress shall not be made, and no solution is going to materialize out of thin air. Only in the richly abundant graces that inevitably must flow from their mutual cooperation in apostolic acts can and will they test and discover for themselves, for each other, and for the Faithful, their authority to do all things required of them, up to and including coming together as one to call a Synod of the true Shepherds and from that body, elect a true Successor of Peter.
Last week I dealt with the objections brought up in citing Pope Pius XII's Mystici Corporis and I will return to that later in this final segment in order to cover every loophole that could possibly remain to totally refute any and all arguments.
But back in 1964 the organization Paul VI ran was still the Church, and the relevant decisions and changes made in public cooperation with all the nominal Church leaders (in the Vatican II Council), their personal interior status is not relevant to the legality of the opening Vatican II documents. But once again, it is Lumen Gentium, the last identifiable official document of the Catholic Church, the one that defined the Vatican-run organization as being not the Church but merely some other sort of body within portions of which portions of the Church would do Her subsisting (thereby defining into existence a new and parallel organization), that also comes into play here.
It is now time for me to talk about a different part of Lumen Gentium than that which I have previously expounded upon in various places. I refer to paragraphs 21 (second part) and 22 (first part). Let us start with what the paragraphs actually say (I include the first part of 21 lest anyone accuse me of quoting out of context):
21. In the bishops, therefore, for whom priests are assistants, Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Supreme High Priest, is present in the midst of those who believe. For sitting at the right hand of God the Father, He is not absent from the gathering of His high priests, but above all through their excellent service He is preaching the word of God to all nations, and constantly administering the sacraments of faith to those who believe, by their paternal functioning. He incorporates new members in His Body by a heavenly regeneration, and finally by their wisdom and prudence He directs and guides the People of the New Testament in their pilgrimage toward eternal happiness. These pastors, chosen to shepherd the Lord's flock of the elect, are servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God, to whom has been assigned the bearing of witness to the Gospel of the grace of God, and the ministration of the Spirit and of justice in glory.
For the discharging of such great duties, the apostles were enriched by Christ with a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit coming upon them, and they passed on this spiritual gift to their helpers by the imposition of hands, and it has been transmitted down to us in Episcopal consecration. And the Sacred Council teaches that by Episcopal consecration the fullness of the sacrament of Orders is conferred, that fullness of power, namely, which both in the Church's liturgical practice and in the language of the Fathers of the Church is called the high priesthood, the supreme power of the sacred ministry. But Episcopal consecration, together with the office of sanctifying, also confers the office of teaching and of governing, which, however, of its very nature, can be exercised only in hierarchical communion with the head and the members of the college. For from the tradition, which is expressed especially in liturgical rites and in the practice of both the Church of the East and of the West, it is clear that, by means of the imposition of hands and the words of consecration, the grace of the Holy Spirit is so conferred, and the sacred character so impressed, that bishops in an eminent and visible way sustain the roles of Christ Himself as Teacher, Shepherd and High Priest, and that they act in His person. Therefore it pertains to the bishops to admit newly elected members into the Episcopal body by means of the sacrament of Orders.
22. Just as in the Gospel, the Lord so disposing, St. Peter and the other apostles constitute one apostolic college, so in a similar way the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, and the bishops, the successors of the apostles, are joined together. Indeed, the very ancient practice whereby bishops duly established in all parts of the world were in communion with one another and with the Bishop of Rome in a bond of unity, charity and peace, and also the councils assembled together, in which more profound issues were settled in common, the opinion of the many having been prudently considered, both of these factors are already an indication of the collegiate character and aspect of the Episcopal order; and the ecumenical councils held in the course of centuries are also manifest proof of that same character. And it is intimated also in the practice, introduced in ancient times, of summoning several bishops to take part in the elevation of the newly elected to the ministry of the high priesthood. Hence, one is constituted a member of the Episcopal body in virtue of sacramental consecration and hierarchical communion with the head and members of the body.
The second part of 22 and beyond goes more specifically into the topic of the role of bishops with respect to the pope in the context of ecumenical councils, to which the first part of 22 (quoted above) begins to set the tone. Again, I call attention most specifically to the parts I have put in bold, which state that the bare fact of an episcopal consecration of itself is sufficient to convey not only the sacrament and power of orders which is in itself an office of providing sanctification to souls, but also with it the offices of teaching and governing! All further conditions (apart from what is intrinsically necessary per the doctrine (as referenced by the phrase "can be exercised only in hierarchical communion with the head and the members of the college") are hereby removed. That is to say, the sum total of all the positive law which the Church has developed over the course of the centuries has been, with the official promulgation of this document, entirely swept away! And in its place there is the new positive law that the granting of jurisdiction, of the canonical mission, is itself to be united to the conferring of the final degree of Holy Orders. So now, the bare fact of an episcopal consecration alone is there decreed to be sufficient to convey the apostolic mission of the Church, together with all manner of jurisdiction, faculties, etc. as is needed to complete the Divine Mission.
And just in case someone might be contemplating some sort of objection to the effect that the existing procedures (having the pope personally appoint and approve each bishop) are merely being "assumed" or "presumed" in this, one must first note the wording that makes it clear that the consecration is enough, without reservation or condition, save that which ties to a bishop's doctrinal need for his authority to come, whether explicitly and personally, or implicitly and legally only, from the pope. That they truly intended to tear out all of the Church's positive law that further regulated and tightened up the process of selecting and appointing bishops is also clear from their "ecumenical" intention to regard the separated Eastern schismatic churches as being their equal (the other "lung" of the Church!) and of having their own true and life-giving jurisdiction over their flocks. Such steps taken as the infamous Balamand agreement would be unacceptable and impossible unless they truly believed the separated and schismatic and popeless-by-design East Orthodox to be their actual peers and brothers and co-workers in the Lord's harvest.
One also sees this hinted in Unitatis Redintegratio where it states:
16. Already from the earliest times the Eastern Churches followed their own forms of ecclesiastical law and custom, which were sanctioned by the approval of the Fathers of the Church, of synods, and even of ecumenical councils. Far from being an obstacle to the Church's unity, a certain diversity of customs and observances only adds to her splendor, and is of great help in carrying out her mission, as has already been stated. To remove, then, all shadow of doubt, this holy Council solemnly declares that the Churches of the East, while remembering the necessary unity of the whole Church, have the power to govern themselves according to the disciplines proper to them, since these are better suited to the character of their faithful, and more for the good of their souls. The perfect observance of this traditional principle not always indeed carried out in practice, is one of the essential prerequisites for any restoration of unity.
The goal was, again, to impart jurisdiction to the eastern schismatics, to attempt to render lawful and sanctifying-grace-carrying the sacramental actions performed under the auspices of the schismatic bishops. Though not explicitly mentioned, I suppose this would also have to extend (by implication at least) to any other schismatic succession as well, such as Old Catholic (Utrecht), Duarte-line, and so forth.
But the Council Fathers seem to have forgotten that the bare ability of an episcopal consecration being enough to convey the apostolic mission would still be not enough in those cases where the consecrator, though materially possessing the power of orders, does not possess the apostolic mission. What he does not have, he cannot give. So all of this actually buys the historically schismatic but sacramentally valid lines of holy orders practically nothing. But as I said, it was for later documents to attempt to ascribe this jurisdiction to the various false churches and religions by name, specifically. Lumen Gentium merely opened the door to such ideas by allowing, in a general sense, jurisdiction to belong to those who are not answerable, de jure, to the leadership in Rome, nor selected, appointed, and approved as bishops personally by a living pope.
I note also that though this document legally swept away all restrictive details of positive law which the Church had set up regarding the procedure for the selection and appointment of bishops, the Vatican organization did not heed its own document in this regard, but continues to go through the fiction of an "approval" only through their leader in Vatican City. Such passages of Lumen Gentium are therefore not really even meant for them who are but some separate and parallel and secular organization, but for us who are the Church.
As I talk of the problems had by the historically schismatic lines, I realize that I have never before nailed down what is to be said regarding Lumen Gentium's attempt to assign jurisdiction to any and every sort of minister of any kind. In particular, the question of one with orthodoxy in doctrine, but valid orders that are schismatic in source and therefore without the apostolic mission, namely, can Lumen Gentium truly assign to them (as it indeed attempts) the apostolic mission? I do not believe it does. However, should any such schismatically-sourced cleric choose to repudiate any schism and heresy associated with the source of their orders, truly become a Catholic, be willing to obtain whatever training or formation is required to function as a Catholic cleric of whatever grade or rank they possess, and who without simony or fraud gains the approval to function in that rank or capacity of at least one who does possess the apostolic mission of equivalent or higher grade, that individual can indeed thereby truly join the ranks of the Church's authorized and jurisdiction-holding clergy.
So now let's trace exactly how this works, legally. Archbishops Thục and Lefebvre and Bishops de Castro-Meyer and Mendez were one and all personally selected and appointed and approved by known and living popes, Thục by His Holiness Pope Pius XI, Lefebvre and de Castro-Meyer by His Holiness Pope Pius XII, and Mendez by John XXIII (legally valid for this canonical purpose, regardless of any personal deficiencies of John XXIII, owing to the fact that Lumen Gentium has not occurred yet). When Paul VI resigned from the papacy in 1964, all four of these bishops were in good standing with the Church, the Papacy, and with each other. With the papal office closed (revoking Lumen Gentium is what it would take to open it again for occupancy), the diocesan borders dissolved (as I have discussed in other articles), and lawful ecclesiastical jurisdiction capable, de jure, of existing without submission to the Vatican leadership, a permanent collegial status of the bishops decreed, and all detailed regulations as to what vetting needs to take place in order for a Roman Catholic bishop with divine authority scraped away, a small handful of bishops together managed to keep the true Faith, while the vast majority defected.
And this handful now legally possessed the fullness of what it takes to continue the Church legally and visibly, and to pass on all prerogatives that they had to their successors. Since (as of 1964) the legislation specifies that the bare fact of an episcopal consecration is sufficient to convey the apostolic mission, all Catholic bishops had and have the power and authority to convey their own Church-given apostolic mission to their episcopal succession, and without the obligation to have a pope personally involved in the process, since the "implicit consent" or "legal will" is sufficient wherever the law is followed, as in force at the time.
The only other consideration for this implicit consent or legal will of the pope is that those providing for the succession and those so consecrated do what they do in communion with the pope, or at least (when there is no pope at a given moment), the papacy. Now who truly carried forth the interests of every true pope from Pius XII clear on back to Peter himself personally? Could it possibly have been the heretics who smashed altars, ripped rosaries apart, and turned everything upside down that these 260-plus popes had one and all lived and died for? Or would it not have to be those who fought to preserve all that the popes lived and died to preserve?
It could be a legitimate question as to whether one should go with the majority or the minority, but the teachings of the Church are clear in this matter. When one wants to be able to decide between one teaching and another, one is obliged to side with the ancient teaching. By this principle, it is the minority who remained faithful to Catholic tradition who became the true standard-bearers of the Faith, while the majority went off gradually into heresy and schism as their new Novus Ordo sect took shape. So it had been back in the Arian crisis in which only the barest handful were faithful to the true teaching and the rest, a significant majority, heretical to a man. The teaching is clear, and the precedent is documented on record. One must either claim that the heretics somehow continued the chain of authority (absurd!), or else that the Catholics continued the chain of authority (what I have always and consistently maintained), despite having had only an empty papal chair (thus far) to gather around.
That our bishops and clergy are in communion with the ancients is easy, even trivial, to document past all possible refutation. Correspondingly, that the personnel of the Vatican organization who have gone along with the Novus Ordo religion have broken with the ancients in forming their own new religion is equally easy, even trivial, to document past all possible refutation. But what about the "hierarchical communion with the head and the members of the college" mentioned by Lumen Gentium, in particular, the "head" part? With no pope, even in any sort of "material" or legal or canonical or visible sense, let alone in any Petrine sense, the "head" must be, in practice, the Papal chair itself, until a man is elected to fill it.
Now, in all justice and common sense, who does the Papal chair belong to? It cannot belong to heretics. It can only belong to Catholics, to the real Church, to we traditionalists, one and all taken together collectively. While we traditional Catholics don't have a pope, we do have the (vacant) papal chair with us, and only with us. By being visibly in union with all popes to have been, and any as may yet come, we demonstrate and prove our filial devotion to all real popes the Church has ever had, or ever will, and thereby to our Lord Himself who grants each of them His authority as His vicars. When it comes to the question of the distinctively Vatican II Novus Ordo teachings, the will and teaching of all the Roman Catholic popes is clear and definitive, as I have documented in Appendix A of my book, The Resurrection of the Roman Catholic Church.
Finally, what about our bishop's communion with each other? After all, in the ancient days when popes routinely did not participate personally in the selection or appointment or approval of bishops, the other surrounding bishops were still key in this. We know that Abps. Thục and Lefebvre must have known each other well enough and respected each other since Lefebvre was able to point certain persons to Thục, who in turn listened to the persons and considered (and granted) their requests at what he was led to believe was Lefebvre's advice. And of course, the close working relationship between Lefebvre and de Castro-Meyer, to the point of performing their consecrations together (de Castro-Meyer as co-consecrator), is beyond doubt. Finally, I believe that at least about a dozen, perhaps even more, other bishops approved and supported Thục and Lefebvre (and de Castro-Meyer) in their actions, even though they left no episcopal succession, though some did ordain specifically traditional priests in the traditional manner, such as he that ordained Oliver Oravec to the priesthood.
Among such bishops was Mendez who himself later on became the last of the four bishops who have provided for the future of the Church, and the friendly and approving correspondence between him and Lefebvre is also documented. He would put in good words for the Archbishop, who thanked him in return. Later on he ordained a couple priests for an order of priests who had been formed and trained by Lefebvre, and also consecrated a priest (ordained by Abp. Lefebvre) to the episcopacy. And not only fellow bishops, but also support from priests, religious, and prominent laity were also part of the equation. The four founding bishops upon which the future of the Church now seems to rest were all working in close cooperation with each other and with as many as can truly qualify as Catholics, serving the same purpose and Church.
It is in this manner that the traditional episcopal successions stemming from these bishops received the apostolic mission of the Church, and as such possess their jurisdiction by true delegation by the Church, directly and literally in accord with the laws, as published and promulgated and in effect at the time of their consecrations and all consecrations since, of the Church.
Most important of all, note here that at no point does the authority of our traditional bishops to act and guide and rule and govern and teach and sanctify in the name of Holy Mother Church in any way stem from epikeia. Nor does it stem from ecclesia supplet. Nor does it stem from Canons 209 or 2261, nor any sort of "divine" extraordinary or extra-canonical mission, or any vague appeal to the salvation of souls being the supreme law, or claim that a law evaporates in the face of impossibility, or anything else along those lines. It stems from the direct decree of Holy Mother Church, coupled with personal selection by those papally authorized to make such choices and truly in union with the papacy, and as such is regular, habitual, and fully apostolic in character.
Now, once Lumen Gentium did away with the former Catholic dioceses (in anything but, perhaps, some titular sense) and made the whole world comprise the one remaining Catholic diocese, namely that of Rome, all geographic territoriality of jurisdiction ceased. However, each bishop still nevertheless has a "flock" comprised of what clergy, religious, and lay are attached to them as their bishop. The theological manuals seem to use the terms "diocese" and "flock" in nearly interchangeable ways, but where one ("diocese") is specifically associated with a territorial region, the other ("flock") is slightly broader in that it can be either that or something different, for example the members of a religious order, or of some particular Rite. So while there are no dioceses (other than that now worldwide one of Rome), there remain particular flocks over which their authority in no way differs from an ordinary (Pre-Vatican II era) bishop's authority over his diocese.
There is one other error I have begun to see cropping up in a few places, namely the idea that if the Church is without a pope, even for a moment, all authority ceases until the next pope is elected. I have already seen where one blogger actually wrote that "Sedevacantist acephalous clerics of the traditionalist movement have only supplied jurisdiction: something substantiated by their own assertion that the Apostolic See is vacant or usurped." Of course I have here fully proven that there is nothing "acephalous" about sedevacantist or any other form of traditionalist clerics. But from where comes the idea that only supplied jurisdiction would exist anywhere in the whole Church during any time of a vacant (or usurped) Apostolic See? No quotes with any apparent and direct relevance to such a claim have as yet been brought forth. There only exists a quote, obviously about other things and even so used as quoted, that could be even remotely associated with that claim. And that association requires that peculiar muddling that points supposedly "proven" with some misquote get in the retelling second, third, and fourth hand. Such is the following:
Pius XII told us in no uncertain terms what the Church has always taught concerning interregnums and how the Church is to conduct Herself for as long as such an interregnum may last.
1. While the Apostolic Seat is vacant, let the Sacred College of Cardinals have no power or jurisdiction at all in those things which pertain to the Pope while he was alive...but let everything be held, reserved for the future Pope. And thus we decree that whatever power or jurisdiction pertaining to the Roman Pontiff, while he is alive (unless in as far as it is expressly permitted in this, Our Constitution) the meeting of Cardinals itself may have taken for exercising, is null and void.
2. Likewise we order that the Sacred College of Cardinals is not able to dispose of the laws of the Apostolic Seat and the Roman Church in any manner it wishes, nor may it attempt to detract wheresoever from the laws of the same, either directly or indirectly through a species of connivance, or through dissimulation of crimes perpetrated against the same laws, either after the death of the Pontiff or in time of vacancy, [however] it may seem to be attempted. Indeed, we will that it ought to guard and defend against the same contention of all men.
3. Laws given by the Roman Pontiffs are in no way able to be corrected or changed through the meeting of the cardinals of the Roman Church [the See] being vacant; nor is anything able to be taken away or added, nor is there able to be made any dispensation in any manner concerning the laws themselves or some part of them. This is very evident from pontifical Constitutions [on]...the election of the Roman Pontiff. But if anything contrary to this prescript occurs or is by chance attempted, we declare it by our supreme authority to be null and void. - Vacantis Apostolica Sedis, paras.1- 3, Ch. 1; Pope Pius XII, 1945; translated from the Latin taken from Revs. Woywod and Smith's "A Practical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law," Joseph Wagner, 1957).
During an interregnum, without the pope, nothing can be done, and even if it is attempted it is null and void. Questions about Can. 209, 2261 §2 or any of the rest must be resolved with what already exists, and the commentaries on these canons do NOT support their use during an interregnum.
Obviously, the intent of the lay author in using the quote from the pope's Vacant Apostolic See document is to convey the impression that all ecclesiastical activity ceases with the death or loss of a pope, and only resumes with the election of another. But the extract itself makes clear that this is an instruction, not to the whole Church, nor even the bishops, but in fact only to the cardinals, as I have highlighted in bold. Remember, the Roman Curia would be typically comprised of the cardinals, perhaps together with some other workers of various ecclesial grades, but with the cardinals occupying all the key posts over and within each curial congregation, tribunal, and office.
Remember, this cardinal-run Roman Curia is effectively part of the papacy as well, with its various congregations, tribunals, and offices all serving as direct delegates of the Pope to perform his papal duties. He for his part need only review their reports and documents, signing them off where necessary, or making other recommendations or emendations where necessary, as he alone possesses infallibility. And when the Church is between popes, all other duties of the cardinals cease as their one main duty to elect the next pope takes precedence over all other responsibilities, and indeed removes their very right to continue in their other responsibilities until that one main responsibility has been fully discharged.
So with not only the pope (through his death or resignation) not available but also the cardinals as well as they head into conclave, whatever remaining staff within the Curia really does have no real authority to continue in their curial duties. That is in fact a good time for them to go on a vacation or a retreat.
But there is nothing here to imply that other actions of other, lesser sees (patriarchal, metropolitan, archepiscopal, or episcopal) are also similarly on hold during the vacancy of the supreme See, or that the Church's bishops would go from possessing their ordinary jurisdiction over their flocks to having only supplied jurisdiction until the next pope is elected. Indeed, if every death or loss of a pope implied the loss of all jurisdiction and authority in the Church beyond that which is merely supplied, it would have lost its mark of apostolicity with the death of Saint Peter.
History itself amply bears out the fact that the Church indeed did carry on during each papal vacancy, even while the papal electors (whether cardinals or whatever they had previously in the various eras) were busy electing the next pope. Diocesan bishops continued their own tribunals and rotas, continued to respond to heresies, continued to ordain priests and perform confirmations (and, during some of the more lengthy papal vacancies, even appointed new bishops), thus carrying on the Lord's business at all times until He comes.
There is yet another inconsistency to be reported among those who attack our bishops. Many of them seem to believe in the existence of some "Bishop X" (or "Bishop in the woods," to report here an interesting expression I just came across) as being some papally appointed bishop, say, confined in some gulag with no access to the outside world, and who might be maintaining some truly faithful congregation within the gulag. Miraculous longevity aside, many of these who put their hopes in the existence of such a bishop seem to have no trouble accepting the idea that the succession chosen by such a bishop from his fellow inmates of the gulag might preserve his lawful and truly hierarchical and jurisdiction-holding succession, yet when a very few of what few truly faithful bishops as there were and are outside the gulag do the same, somehow that hasn't the same juridical or hierarchical validity.
Am I the only one able to see the irony, or even the outright hypocrisy of that? Somehow the bare fact of being confined in some gulag imparts to the true bishop so confined the ability to continue the succession without need of any recourse to a pope, while being outside the gulag just as mysteriously deprives all bishops similarly lacking access to a pope (since there isn't one), of the same ability? Perhaps we should speak no longer of a Catholic Church but rather of some "Church of the Gulag" for there alone does it really exist. And by the way, was that bishop ever assigned to the gulag specifically as a diocese?
Should anyone wish, in the face of what I have just said here, to sustain such a wicked and iniquitous double standard, I believe it is proper to accuse such a person of truly bad will. Such ones positively wish and desire (however much they may protest to the contrary) that the Church be confined to some remote and unknown location, to some mere chimerical existence that on the practical level is no better than sheer fantasy. No, our faithful traditional bishops truly ARE the "Bishops in the woods," except of course they are not "in the woods" but in plain sight, discoverable to all, as the dogma yea verily establishes must always be the case.
Finally, as many know me to be an ardent conclavist, I can now say a little bit more about that. It is my observation that while such a conclave as I have envisioned would have the full canonical force of any other papal conclave throughout the Church's history, there remains the practical matter of our Catholic people being able to recognize it in a timely and reasonable manner. Desirable as it is to have a real Roman Catholic Pope again, I realize that those whose job it is to perform this conclave, either themselves or whoever they delegate, will find this action far easier to sell to a community of Catholics who are long accustomed to seeing them function together as Catholic clerics should and exercising their authority as truly serves the needs of the Church.
Indeed, stepping out in faith, seeing the awesome Gospel power of the authority they indeed possess as it is exercised in a variety of lesser tasks of the Church, can be quite a stepping stone to being able to see why and how and that they can and must be the source of the election of the Church's next true pope. God will honor these first few hesitant steps some of them will take, as they begin to recognize themselves and each other as being "the Lord's anointed" and truly worthy of respect and veneration, and their own duty to be themselves venerable in their own character and manner. "Taste and see that the Lord is good," the Psalmist once wrote, and that is what I publish here for the benefit of our truly Catholic (traditionalist) clergy.