To reiterate what I have been hammering away on in this "Accepting Responsibility" series with Part One - Is the Church Really a Rubber Room?, Part Two - Breaking the Illusion of Lawlessness and Part Three - Being Our Brother's Keeper last month is that even today, the Church is a society which is bound together by laws which have morally binding force. In this and the final part I refute any arguments as have been launched to prevent the traditional bishops from coming together in a sincere call for the Mystical Body of Christ to stand up like a man. As pointed out in part three, our traditional Bishops and Priests have the power and we have authority as true Catholics faithful to all the Church has passed down in Divine Revelation. I say again the authority of our traditional clerics does not derive in the least bit from the consent of the flocks they lead, but rather from the direct and explicit will of Jesus Christ. When we use that authority as authority is meant to be used, what is bound on earth is also bound in Heaven.
It was a long night. Peter and his brother Andrew had been fishing with almost no result. Time and time again they put their nets in the water, dragged them along, and then lifted them out, only to find that next to nothing had been caught. By midmorning, the time by which the fish are usually returning to the deep or wherever it is they go when the fishing stops being any good, Peter and Andrew were ready to hang it up for the day. They had caught barely enough to feed their immediate families for that one day.
But as they were rolling up the nets in the boats and preparing to return to shore so empty handed, the Master, calling to them from the beach, inquired as to how their fishing has gone.
Peter called out his reply, "Master, we have been at this all night and all morning. There just isn't anything to be caught." Andrew, on his own boat, also nodded in agreement.
Jesus then cried out in return, "Lower your nets right over there, just to the right of your boat!"
Peter hesitated for only a moment, "Since it is You that asks, I will do as You say. Andrew, help me lower the nets."
Andrew grumbled and complained a bit, but reluctantly assisted Peter in lowering the net in the designated spot. He had long since learned that when Peter sets his mind to something, there is no talking him out of it. The nets were lowered, dragged along, and then pulled up no different than they have been doing all night and morning.
But before the nets even began to come up out of the water it was clear that this was a catch fit to be told of to the grandchildren, as richly full as the night had been empty. It was so much that the nets strained to hold it all, and in places were beginning to rip. They called to some other fishermen further out from shore to come and help them hold and bring in this catch of fish. The other fishermen had thus far been as unsuccessful as they, so they came and helped.
Together, they brought in this truly impressive catch of fish. Even divided four ways among Peter, Andrew, and the other two fishermen who had come to help, each came home with far more than they had ever caught in a single day before. Andrew and the others rejoiced, ready to take their impressive catch to the market.
But Peter realized something. He had been a fisher since his father had taught it to him as he grew up, and knew the art well. He could look where the sun was and where the clouds were, and then at the sea, to see where it was smooth and where it was choppy, how much the waves were lapping up on the shore, which way the wind was blowing, and what the weather was like over the rest of the sea. He knew as well as any man could know exactly where and when to drop the nets for the best catch, and yet despite this had come up empty, until the Master came along. Yes, the same Master who had up to this point never displayed any particular knowledge about fishing, and whose foster father Joseph had trained in the trade of carpentry, not fishing. Peter realized that this Master, Jesus, was no ordinary man.
In fear, Peter begged to excuse himself, pointing out that "I am an unworthy man!" But Jesus looked on him with love and replied, "But Peter, it is you that I have called." When Peter obeyed that call, the results were, if not quite literally out of this world, they were certainly amazing, and the beginning of something that truly is as much out of this world as in it. Each of us, in our own limited capacity, is called to be a fisher of men. "He that wins souls is wise," and there is a great grace and forgiveness in having any part of bringing souls into the Kingdom of God.
Not since that first few years starting with the first Pentecost has the Church been so small as it is today. Never since then has its growth been as dependent upon the efforts of each and every one of us as it is now. Salvation is not meant for the few, the lucky, who happen to have the recourse to the true Church through the authentic Sacraments and teaching. But neither is salvation meant for the fallen masses in the Novus Ordo, or any other non-Catholic religion, so long as they remain therein. We have no right to pray, "Bless us, oh God, we four, no more" while watching a sin-ridden world plunge headlong into Hell.
But what has been our growth, of late? After the 1960's, when the Shepherd was struck, barely a few thousand Catholics remained worldwide, the truest remnant of all. Of course, as the knowledge spread of there being faithful priests and bishops who kept the old Faith alive (and with it the Church Herself!), millions more around the world returned from a condition of spiritual exile, from confusion and despair. The number of locations where the true Mass was found, for example, in the United States, blossomed from a few dozen to nearly 600 locations by the 1990's. But today, decades later, the number still remains at just over 600 locations in the US.
Granted, part of that has to do with the loss of numerous priests ordained by the Church in the pre-Vatican II days, as their numbers continue to dwindle and the miniscule percentage of those who are faithful to their original calling barely increases. That has perhaps only barely been made up for in the new priests coming from the various traditional seminaries. And these priests will also, in time, need to be replaced as God calls them home one by one. So I realize that the shortage of Mass locations ties directly into a shortage of priests, and not of Catholics.
And of course, more priests are binating and even trinating on a routine basis as the small church buildings held by them prove insufficient for the total number of parishioners regularly coming. And many parishioners like myself live far from the Mass and can only come on a less frequent basis. But I still cannot help feeling that there has been a bit of a leveling off in recent years, at least in my country the US, as if the Church, not knowing where to expand, has become complacent with its current size.
In a way, the first part of our growth was the easiest, since the sheep to be gathered truly were sheep, those who had attended regularly in good faith and knew what to expect from Church, and who therefore had very little trouble recognizing it again when they came across it later on in the traditional Catholic community. They've seen the Church, they know the Church, and when they see us today they know we are the Church. And when they see the Novus Ordo today they know it is not the Church.
But by now, virtually all of those sheep, in the US at least, if not worldwide as well, have been gathered. It is now time for the Church to continue Her growth the more slow and organic way, no longer through the gathering of sheep, but through the conversion of sinners. Many of us laity (and all of the clergy by the very nature of their office as clerics) are actively engaged in this evangelization. But our success has not been what it should be. I think I know why.
Like Peter in the account above, we cast our nets into the sea and come up practically empty. But let the Master be the One to direct us instead of ourselves, as we obediently follow Him, and then the results will follow. But how can the Master speak in this day? "He who hears you (His apostles), hears Me." But have they spoken? How long did Peter and the others fish without result before the Master spoke? But the time comes and the Master speaks. Are we ready to obey Him by putting our nets in the water though we are tired of doing so without result? We've worked and worked and worked and worked, all with skimpy results, and now we are tired and want to hang it all up. And then the Master comes along and tells us to work yet some more. We will not feel like doing it at all. But we must.
Now, what about the Master? Or more specifically, those who speak with authority imparted to them by the Master through His Church, and in His name and for His cause? There is a difference between a man and a slime mold. Both seek to eat and avoid predators and parasites and to propagate their kind. But where a slime mold does no more than these basics and simply conforms to the shape of the surface upon which it grows, the man stands tall and carries out goals. These goals are not merely for another meal, or even to provide many meals for all his kind, but for something higher, for beauty, for justice, for honor, for the ennoblement of his kind.
This is what has always set the Church apart from all derivative but heretical (or at least schismatic) breakaway "churches." What is a man when his brain is taken from him, while yet still alive? We call such an unfortunate person a vegetable. He can grow (if others feed him), but he can accomplish nothing. But the other "churches" are not even like human vegetables, but more like slime molds, capable of growth perhaps, but not capable of cohesive action. They have no Petrine office, no concept of even the need for it. At least a man who is unconscious (like a vegetable) can be revived, but a life form which is not even designed to accommodate a man's head can never arise above its own bare survival. That is why the only growth they can experience is that which is mandated by some secular power, be it that of Constantinople or Germany or England or Scandinavia or China or Vatican City. But Christ did not hand His Church over to Caesar, but to Peter.
What is the voice of Peter but the voice of the mind of the man that tells his body to rise up from its nightly sleep and begin the man's work for the day? What is the voice of Peter but the voice of the mind of God that tells His Mystical Body the Church to rise up from its present stupor and begin the Church's work for the day? Even when the voice of Peter the man, or any of his successors, is stilled in death, the echo of the voice continues to be heard from his closest associates and fellow workers, the Bishops, until another can be elected to continue in the role of Peter himself. But when no voice or echo of Peter is heard, either from Peter the Pope or from his immediate fellow workers the Bishops, when no coordinated direction is given, the Church languishes, like a human vegetable.
We have our bishops, and they in turn have their authority, as delegated to them by Christ through His Church. Yet how minimally they exercise it! Or worse still, how scandalously some abuse it, denouncing not only their peers but also the flocks of their peers, as if they had that kind of authority, and all the while making no claim to it! No wonder we the Faithful often feel so mixed up whenever we try to understand or follow the discussions of the great questions about the Church.
Our own leadership has taken on far too much of the likeness of the absentee father of a household who earns the money, but lets the wife run the household effectively abdicating his paternal authority, and who spends practically no time with the children. A big part of the problem of course is how spread incredibly thin they all are. A typical bishop today has at least one and often two or even three Masses to perform every day, often in distantly separated cities, requiring much travel time. He also has a seminary to run, classes to teach, confirmations to give, various other less frequent episcopal duties such as blessing altars and ordaining priests, articles and books to write, correspondences to reply to, bills to pay, dying souls to visit in their extremity, harassment from critics, and on top of this keep his breviary going. Many still have aging parents or other family who require their attention.
I get it. I realize just how fantastically busy they one and all are, and how incredibly precious their time is. The last thing I want to do is to have to say to any of them, "On top of all that you already must do, your Excellency, here is a list of yet some more things you need to do." Yeah, right. And can I have an order of fries with that?
Seriously, one thing that our bishops can start doing is learning how to delegate. They have that authority, and if only they but exercise that, much good can come of it and they will actually have more time to carry out their other duties, and even a chance to catch their breath from time to time. Some things can only be delegated to clerics, whether their priests or even tonsured seminarians, while others can be delegated to wise, experienced, sincere, and devout laity. Some of these positions may even need persons who are hired and go on salary. (Correspondingly, we as the Faithful do have an obligation to provide sufficiently for them to pay these salaries.) Whether some do this as volunteers or others as paid helpers, all are equally obliged to represent the bishop's (and the Church's) interests in all that they do within this delegated capacity.
Now some might point out that those delegated might not do a very good job at the posts to which they have been delegated. There have been instances in which someone delegated by a priest or bishop to perform some function has been the occasion of scandal to the priest's or bishop's congregation. There IS accountability which can and must be exercised. I realize that it might seem easier to just do a job oneself so as to do it right rather than spend much effort trying to get someone else to be able to do it right (or content oneself with them not quite doing it right), but in the beginning some instruction is necessary. And some folks just can't or won't learn and you just have to start again with someone else.
But before long you have someone who can do the job right, or at least passably well, and from there on one need merely monitor their activities to ensure they remain on the right track and truly representative of your interests and the Church's. Then that is one chunk of work which is no longer on your plate, now giving you more time to find and train someone else to take up some other task as your delegate. And as you get another and another and your duties become lighter, this should provide an opportunity to lift up your head and get a good look around at the greater picture of all of what is going on around you and in the Church.
With this in place, one needs to step up to the plate. It is time to come to an understanding of your place in the Church, what authority you do and don't have, as bishop, as priest, as nun or monk, as tonsured seminarian, or even as laity. It is time to announce to the public at large that we are the real and historic Roman Catholic Church, the Church of all history, alone founded by Jesus Christ. We cannot share that title with anyone else.
It's time for we and our leaders to accept the full weight of responsibility for the entire future of Holy Mother Church which God has laid upon our puny shoulders. If we do not work together to build the Kingdom of God, the Church shall never recover. And it will be entirely our own damn fault. We are called to build, not to tear down with mere criticism. Whatever usefulness any criticism here or there may possibly have had at times, what is that next to our most sacred obligation to build?
The Lord has called us to be down on the battleground between good and evil, not sitting in comfort watching the battle on TV, and occasionally commenting to our fellow couch potatoes, "Oh, he didn't do a very good job, did he?" You critics think you know better, then get down here on the battleground and show us! Let us see who actually leads the souls to salvation, they, or we. If we continue to scandalize the sinners, reducing ourselves to a laughingstock by our absurd turf wars, it is we who will be answering for that. We traditional Catholics of every possible stripe are all already united to the Chair of Peter and to the holy will of God, and in that we are therefore united to each other, no matter how much some may maliciously wish to write certain others out of the Kingdom of God for disagreeing with them about some unsettled and minor point.
Or suppose you think that perhaps one day the Novus Ordo Vatican organization might somehow magically become Catholic again. I am not the least bit sanguine about that possibility. But let us ignore that and suppose that such a recovery were actually and seriously "in the cards." The fact is the only way they are going to gain that grace would have to be from us. As scattered congregations rivaling each other and even descending into petty feuds, they must be looking askance at us, finding it difficult to believe that without our prayers for them they are positively lost.
Think of Abraham who sinned against Abimelech by saying that his wife was his sister, nearly causing Abimelech to fall into sin with his wife. And yet it was Abraham's job to pray forgiveness for Abimelech and not the other way around, for it was Abraham who was the chosen prophet of God (Genesis 20). In like manner, though we have stumbled many through our petty and absurd internecine rivalries, it must be we who pray and offer sacrifice to God to forgive them for the sins they fell into because we scandalized them. When we traditional Catholics present to them a single and cohesive front, whether under a pope of our election, or while yet awaiting the time for an election, that is the one thing that could ever bring about their conversion.
For another obligation is to preach the Gospel to all the nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. That is not someone else's job; it's our job. If we do not do it, it will not get done, and the souls that are lost we will be held accountable for:
"When I say to the wicked, 'You will surely die,' and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet if you have warned the wicked and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered yourself. Again, when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I place an obstacle before him, he will die; since you have not warned him, he shall die in his sin, and his righteous deeds which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. However, if you have warned the righteous man that the righteous should not sin and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; and you have delivered yourself." (Ezekiel 3:18-21)
In the earliest days of the Church, when its numbers were as few as they are now, and like now there was practically a whole world in need of conversion, it was not only the clergy who preached. All preached, yes even the laity. You might say, "The laity is not qualified to preach, and have no particular calling. How can they be expected to preach?" But do they not have concern for their neighbors, friends, relatives, and business connections? Have they no role in the normal civil life of their immediate surroundings? And knowing the basics of how to approach the people does not require a great deal of training and expertise.
Consider this: One of the great things the Legion of Mary does is organize the laity as parish census takers, as door-to-door representatives of the Church, inviting all, encouraging all, ministering to all, and bringing God's own comfort to all. Once a week they gather together with their priest in a structured meeting. They not only pray the rosary and other prayers, but are also spiritually edified generally and trained specifically in this work. In this weekly meeting they are assigned particular evangelistic tasks, and to be able to report on the results of carrying out the previous week's assignments. The people are assigned to go out in twos. Ideally, the priest would include himself in one or another of such twosomes to go along and allow the laity to see how best to approach the people, and allow the priest to see how well his training has taken effect. The tasks can include such things as going door-to-door, visiting the sick of the congregation, visiting hospitals and prisons.
The priest cannot visit everybody in his church's general location, but he can train enough laity to make most of his rounds for him, reporting back any needs for a priest, inviting all in the immediate community to come back to Church, and serving as an extension of the priest into the local community. In this they serve as his voice, and his eyes and ears. The neighborhood can be divvied up into small groups of city blocks and each area systematically tracked as to when they have been visited, what homes people were friendly or unfriendly or absent or in need of further visits. Thus can evangelization be carefully coordinated to maximize efficiency of the efforts of those assisting in this. And other things done in the local community could include such things as opening up a soup kitchen for the homeless and so forth.
Can anyone doubt just how powerfully the Kingdom of God and interests of Christ would be served in doing this? How vast the numbers would become in those coming home to the only place where Faith is found in their community? What tremendous growth would follow from this! Contrast that with what it would be like (what it is too often like) with the laity having no coordinated direction to take! Either they do nothing for the Kingdom beyond their own privately devout lives, or they go off in all directions, providing only the most hit or miss coverage of the community, sometimes contradicting each other, and typically proving out to be very poor representatives of Holy Mother Church. No wonder the catch has been so skimpy these days! What a huge difference it would make if only we so organized as we all know that we must!
Will God bless this? How can He not? Of course He will. Our traditional priests do have the necessary jurisdiction over the immediate area around their chapels. Perhaps some fear that they would be like someone writing a bad check which the bank, having burned down, might not be able to honor. But in true Faith, trusting in God to keep His promises, we truly can write those checks without fear that they will not be made good.
I would say that wherever one could get, travelling from the chapel within a half-hour's time, should be counted, reduced only by what few areas might be equally accessible to two or more traditional chapels that are both engaging in this work, and who divvy the mutually covered area equally between the two. I say that as a start. Once we get that working well, then perhaps that can be added to, distance-wise.
Whatever some may think of His Excellency Bishop Bernard Fellay, what he said here is as true as anything ever to come from the lips of a pope: "Wanting God to give the victory without asking armed men to engage in battle, to quote St. Joan of Arc, is a form of desertion. Wanting an end to the crisis without feeling concerned or involved is not really to love the Church. Providence does not dispense us from the duty of our state in life, wherever it has placed us, or from assuming our responsibilities and responding to the graces that it grants us." Amen.
Once we start making our presence known in our communities, many other things will start to happen. For now, most of our churches and "chapels" (I frankly resent the use of that word, as if the places where the true Mass is found would be anything less than the truly established parish churches that they are) receive little notice in their communities. Just a little country church people might pass while driving from somewhere to somewhere. The Devil can practically ignore us, as the local community finds it easy to do the same. But once we start, that will quickly change.
Obviously, some real and substantial growth will be one result, as lost souls finally receive the invitation to come home to the true Faith and Church. But this will also bring on persecution. The Novus Ordo, in particular, will resent us reclaiming the title they have usurped all these years. So long as we did (practically) nothing, they could ignore us. But by the time we have gone door to door extending a personal invitation to all in the area to come to the real and authentic Roman Catholic Church, they won't be able to ignore us anymore. Of course they will try to "warn" their dupes. And sooner or later these "warnings" will enter the public forum, whether through the news media or through the courts (or both). And then we shall respond.
REFUTING SOME MISQUOTES AND PROVING THE TRUTH
Our claim to all the titles and authority of the Roman Catholic Church is indisputably superior to any such claims as could ever be attempted by the Novus Ordo Vatican apparatus. However, since the start of my publishing this latest series, a couple actual objections to the fact of our clergy's official jurisdiction have finally surfaced, thus showing the desperation of those who would deny the authority of our traditional bishops. As I expected, the objections prove to be quite lame. Here's the first:
Have you ever heard the rumor that a bishop only has jurisdiction if personally appointed by a pope? The purveyors of this rumor, on what extremely rare occasions anyone thinks to question their claim, generally only have recourse a quote from Msgr. Clifford Fenton that:
There is another important item on which the Mystici Corporis Christi issues a doctrinal decision. Prior to the issuance of this encyclical Catholic theologians had debated as to whether the residential bishops of the Catholic Church derived their power of jurisdiction immediately from Our Lord or from Him through the Roman Pontiff. In this document, Pope Pius XII took occasion to speak of the Bishops' power of jurisdiction and he described it as something "which they receive directly (immediate) from the same Supreme Pontiff." In the edition of his Institutiones uris Publici Ecclesiastici which came out after the issuance of the Mystici Corporis Christi, Cardinal Ottaviani took occasion to state that this teaching, which had hitherto been considered up until this time as more probable, and even as common doctrine, must now be accepted as entirely certain by reason of the words of the Sovereign Pontiff Pius XII.
Perhaps some may find this impressive. One finds a similar sort of statement, but somewhat enlarged in detail within the pages of Msgr. G. Van Noort:
Assertion 5: Bishops receive jurisdiction over their flocks directly from the Roman pontiff.
This is certain.
In the previous assertion [4, that bishops must be adopted by the authority of the pope in order to be able to exercise jurisdiction over their flocks, presented herein below - GR] it was pointed out that the establishment of individual bishops always involves some intervention by the pope. The bishops, we saw, cannot actually exercise their jurisdiction over their flocks without the consent, explicit or implicit, of the pope. Another question now remains to be answered: what is the precise connection between papal confirmation in office and episcopal jurisdiction? Is papal intervention simply a condition for the reception of episcopal jurisdiction, or is it a cause? Briefly, do the bishops receive jurisdiction directly from God, or only indirectly through the mediation of the Roman Pontiff?
Prior to Mystici Corporis, two opinions were held by Catholics:
1. Some theologians taught that God directly confers episcopal jurisdiction in each individual instance, either by the very consecration of the bishop, or in some other way. Consequently those authors were of the opinion that the pope either merely assigned the bishop his flock, or limited the bishop's divinely conferred jurisdiction to a definite church, or by his consent fulfilled some condition without which Christ would not confer jurisdiction on the individual bishop, etc. But no matter how they explained the matter, they all admitted that jurisdiction was bestowed from heaven always in dependence upon and with subordination to the supreme pontiff, so that the pope could always restrict, extend, or even completely prohibit the exercise of that jurisdiction. This opinion, once hotly defended in the Council of Trent, was described by Benedict XIV as: "backed by valid arguments."
2. The other, and always the majority opinion, maintained that bishops received their jurisdiction not directly, but indirectly from God. They receive it, in other words, through the supreme pontiff who, in establishing them as bishops, at the same time by explicit will, or at least by legal will, confers jurisdiction upon them. This second opinion, in the judgment of the same Benedict XIV, "seems: (a) more in harmony with reason; and (b) more in harmony with authority."
In reference to (a): It harmonizes better with the monarchical structure of the Church that all jurisdiction should be communicated to subordinate pastors by the supreme pastor, the vicar of Christ. Again, since there is no doubt at all that the power of the supreme pontiff suffices to confer jurisdiction on bishops, the direct intervention of God is adduced without any real need for it. Furthermore, this second opinion gives a far easier explanation of why it is that the pope can diminish, increase, restrict, or even completely take away the jurisdiction of a bishop. Finally, it is a fact that:
A bishop appointed to a diocese, but not yet consecrated, possesses jurisdiction; contrariwise, a bishop already consecrated, but not yet established over a diocese, lacks jurisdiction. Two consequences follow immediately from that fact: first, that episcopal jurisdiction is not conferred by consecration; secondly, that it is conferred through the mediation of papal confirmation [i.e., adoption]. - Zapalena, loc. cit. [De ecclesia Christi - GR]
In reference to (b): St. Optatus of Mileve says, "St. Peter alone received the keys of the kingdom of Heaven to confer them on others" (De schismate Donatistarum 7. 3). In these words, Optatus seems to have been considering, not the apostles themselves, but their successors, the bishops.
Innocent I states that especially in questions of the faith, all bishops should consult St. Peter: "the originator of both his [the bishop's] name and honor" (Epistula 30).
St. Leo I says of St. Peter, "If [Christ] willed the rest of the rulers to have anything in common with him [Peter], He never gave except through him whatever it was He did not deny to the others" (Sermo 4. 2).
Pius VI praises the Roman pontiff "from whom the bishops themselves receive their own authority, just as he himself has received his supreme authority from God" (DB 1500).
Finally, in his epoch-making encyclical, Mystici Corporis, Pius XII states explicitly and without any qualification that the bishops receive their jurisdiction directly from the pope:
as far as each one's own diocese is concerned, they [the bishops] each and all as true Shepherds feed the flocks entrusted to them and rule them in the name of Christ. Yet in exercising this office they are not altogether independent, but are duly subordinate to the authority of the Roman Pontiff; and although their jurisdiction is inherent in their office, yet they receive it directly from the same Supreme Pontiff. - MCC 52; italics ours.
Following this explicit, even though brief, declaration by Pius XII the first opinion is, we feel, no longer tenable. We would agree with Cardinal Ottaviani's statement that the second opinion "should now ... be rated as absolutely certain because of the words of the supreme pontiff, Pius XII."
So indeed it is a doctrine that bishops receive their jurisdiction from the Pope. But take note that it IS a doctrine. When something is a doctrine, that means that it is true, in fact always true, unlike a law or command that only comes into existence upon its issuance. For example, our Lady did not suddenly acquire a status of having been immaculately conceived in 1854 when the pope pronounced on the question, as if some angel had to hop into a time machine and go back and change the past. The ability of the Church to rule dogmatically in that direction means that it was always so, regardless of whether any churchmen could ever before have been sure of it or not. In the same sense, atoms always existed long before any philosophers ever speculated upon their existence, or any scientists ever proved their existence, or observed them.
So, with the authority of bishops always coming directly from the Roman pontiff (being a doctrine), that means that every bishop in all of history so obtained his jurisdiction. But as Church history clearly demonstrates (to be commented upon by Van Noort, below), a great many bishops of the opening centuries of the Church were never personally vetted by any pope. They were elected, sometimes by the priests and other lesser clergy of some particular flock or diocese, sometimes even by the laity, or they were appointed by some Christian but secular prince, or even by the surrounding bishops or local patriarch, whose approval was always nevertheless always necessary in any case. If one actually went by the claims of those who say that only a bishop personally selected, appointed, and approved by some living Pope could have any jurisdiction, then some 80 to 95 percent of all bishops of the Church over the first five centuries would have to have been absolutely of no more authority than some crass layman who pays a shady Old Catholic bishop $100.00 to make a bishop of him.
And of course, in addition to so many of the earlier Church bishops, the same would also have to go for those in later ages who were thus appointed and approved where no access to the pope was physically possible (e. g. in prisons or on desert islands), and of course those bishops, so carefully documented even by name, who were appointed and approved during the lengthy papal vacancy of the 1200's, and quite likely during others of the more lengthy papal vacancies. To this one would also have to add those bishops appointed and approved by the antipopes of the First Great Western Schism.
So how can this be? Does the Church doctrine contradict the documented and known Church history? Of course not, but how not? Some hints of that can be gleaned from the second and much longer quote given above. Those short portions given herein in bold do not appear as such in the book (but all other text and text formatting does), but are the parts of the careful and detailed theological teaching on the subject that show that such papal approval can be either explicit consent (i.e. granted by an actual and living pope, personally), or merely legal will or implicit consent, which latter means without the personal intervention of an actual and living pope, but nevertheless legally equivalent by virtue of being granted by bishop(s) who do themselves possess this consent (of either kind) from the pope.
Obviously, there is no known and living Roman Catholic bishop, true to the Faith of the ancients, and personally appointed and approved by a pope. And just as obviously, no real and traditional bishop of the Church today can claim such an explicit (direct and personal) consent of any pope. But, can our traditional bishops rightly lay claim to an implicit consent, or legal will, of the pope, as mentioned in the above passage? I believe they can. Indeed, doctrinally speaking, they would have to be able to unless some identifiable person or persons could make any qualitatively superior claim. The onus is therefore on those denying that right of our traditional bishops to point to and identify by name who it is that can rightly lay a superior claim to having the papal consent (of either kind) for a known and demonstrated valid and licit and doctrinally orthodox episcopacy. But let us now return to Van Noort for more details on this:
Assertion 4: Bishops, to be able to exercise jurisdiction over their flocks, must be adopted by the authority of the pope.
The way in which individual bishops are established must now be discussed. Even though the episcopal office is something established by God, it is quite obvious that individual rulers of individual dioceses are directly established not by God, but by men. At this juncture we are not inquiring from whom the bishops proximately receive their jurisdiction (see below no.202 [Assertion 5, given above in this article - GR]), but what is required for them actually to function as pastors of their diocese and to exercise their jurisdiction there. To be able to do this, we state, they must be adopted by the authority of the supreme pontiff. Adoption (assumption) is a short form standing for "adoption or assumption into the corporate body of the pastors of the Church." It designates the factor by which the formal admittance of a selected or elected candidate is brought to its final conclusion. We use the phrase, "by the authority of the pope," to indicate that a direct, personal intervention by the pope is not necessarily required. So long as the adoption be done by someone to whom the pope has entrusted the task (regardless of the precise way in which the pope commissions him to do so), or in accord with regulations already established or approved by the pope. In saying that papal adoption is necessary, we do not mean it is merely necessary because of ecclesiastical law currently in force; we mean it is necessary by the divine law itself. Even though this necessity has never been explicitly defined [I suspect this sentence is a holdover from a previous edition of Van Noort written prior to Mystici Corporis, since Assertion 5 stated that this had only most recently been explicitly defined - GR], it follows absolutely from Catholic principles.
We stop here to note the key point, again expressed, that this "adoption" into the corporate body of the pastors of the Church, though "by the authority of the pope," does not require the direct and personal intervention of an actual and living pope. What is hinted at in the quote before this is made explicit and clear in this one. Such "implicit consent" or "legal will" of the pope, as expressed in any of a variety of alternate means, is sufficient to convey this "adoption." All that is really needed in fact is that it be done "in accord with regulations already established or approved by the pope." I will get to that shortly. Also here, I note that, interestingly, Van Noort seems to have already sided with what the Pope would shortly go on to define as doctrine even before he did it, when he stated that "it follows absolutely from Catholic principles." Msgr. G. Van Noort continues:
It is a fact that a bishop cannot act as a pastor of the Church unless he be a member of that body which is a continuation of the apostolic college. Now the Roman pontiff, as Christ's vicar, presides over that college with full and supreme authority. It would be ridiculous, therefore , to think that someone could be constituted a member of that body in such fashion as not to need to be acknowledged or adopted in any way by the very head of that body, i.e., the Roman pontiff. Again, the Roman pontiff is the supreme shepherd of the entire Church to which the bishops may be compared as subordinate shepherds for each individual part of the Church. Clearly it would be nonsensical to think someone could take charge of part of the sheepfold without the agreement of the one who rules the universal sheepfold with complete authority.
The objection is raised: in ancient times the popes did not intervene in any way at all in the selection of bishops. That they did not always intervene directly and by explicit consent, is granted; that they did not intervene at all, not even mediately and by legal consent, we deny. In the absence of historical testimony, it is admittedly impossible to prove this statement directly.
So here it is, the yea verily true admission that many of the ancient bishops were chosen, appointed, and even "adopted" without any personal or direct consent of the pope (only the legal or indirectly implied consent), not merely for reasons of physical separation or papal vacancy, but as the routine and normal functioning of the Church at that time. By all evidences, the real pattern appears to be that at least the bishop, if not known or named by a pope (and accepted by him), must nevertheless demonstrate a good and worthy character, respect and seek first the purposes of the pope, and be accepted by what bishops as can be truly in communion with the pope. Msg. G. Van Noort concludes his discussion of Assertion 4, thus:
Still, keeping in mind Catholic principles, it is fair enough to reconstruct the process somewhat as follows. The apostles and their principle aides, in accord with Peter's consent and will, both selected the first bishops, and decreed that thereafter when sees become vacant the vacancy should be taken care of in some satisfactory way, and in a way which at the very least would not be without the intervention of the neighboring bishops [who would also at least include those who consecrate, and who could show their rejection of a candidate by, among other things, refusing to consecrate him - GR]. As often, therefore, in accord with this process, established with Peter's approval, a new bishop was constituted in the early Church, Peter's authority ratified that selection implicitly. Later on, when ecclesiastical affairs were arranged more precisely by positive law, the patriarchs in the Eastern churches and the metropolitans in the Western churches used to establish the bishops; but they did so only in virtue of the authority of the Apostolic See by which they themselves had been established, even though in a variety of ways. Finally, in later centuries the matter of establishing bishops was set up in different fashion; indeed in such a way that in the Latin church especially, the direct intervention of the Roman pontiff was required. For details in this matter, consult the canonists.
See there a quick and cursory review of the history of how the process of selecting and appointing bishops has changed over the years. So while the doctrine of bishops receiving their authority from the pope (and not directly from God) is always true, the allowable practice has included episcopal selections in which the pope as a person did not participate in at all, though alive and readily enough accessible. It is only the positive law, which is to say, that mandated by the Church and not by God, which has gradually over the centuries limited the practice more and more to particular papal representatives in this matter, and finally to the pope himself personally.
It is important to keep the doctrine and the positive law distinct in one's mind. While the doctrine has always been true, but without the effect of requiring a pope's personal intervention in the appointment of any Catholic bishop, the positive law has been changed quite a number of times over the course of the Church's history. I have not been able to ascertain whether the positive law that each and every bishop must be approved personally by a pope was enacted during the reign of Pius XII in response to the schism perpetrated in China, or already in effect previous. But it is established that the positive law in effect as of the end of Pope Pius XII's reign was that each bishop was to be personally approved by a living pope, personally.
Has the law changed since then? If one posits that the Church promptly vanished with the death of Pope Pius XII, never to arise again, then apparently not. But going with my thesis that despite any possible personal and interior loss of (or failure to attain) the papacy on the part of John XXIII or Paul VI, the organization they had been at least nominally set in charge of was still the Roman Catholic Church. Whether they were interior heretics, sinners, incomparably bad popes, or "popes" only in some nominal or exterior or canonical or visible or legal or material sense, greater minds than mine will have to sort that question out later on.