Having completed five installments of this series in response to a blogger who has posed some intelligent, albeit incompletely informed statements, I will tackle specifically the question regarding the assurance of the legitimacy that our Traditional priests and bishops today must necessarily possess for carrying on in trusted succession of the Apostles and carrying out their purpose of perpetuating the Catholic Faith through the true Sacraments.
As a way of review, in part one I dealt with "authority", part two I delved further into the official loss of Catholic offices on the part of Pope and most bishops. Then in part three I addressed the genesis of Œconomia nova and how it parallels with other apostasies in the past, only on a much larger scale that has created a far longer duration of confusion, collusion, and abdication of their offices and the holy Catholic Faith, and a few weeks ago in part four I continued this string, focusing on the moral and canonical consequences of following the non-Catholic directives emanating from the Œconomia nova and what that means with regards to those who remain part of the Œconomia nova.
In last week's fifth installment, I briefly discussed the mean by which such events - as has happened - all fit within the doctrines regarding Holy Mother Church, and how God is continuing to make good on His promises to preserve His Church, indefectibly.
(6) why does it necessitate positing the conglomerate and acephalous clerics of the anti-modernist resistance as constituting the Ecclesia docens, and what are the criteria whereby the faithful may readily identify who exactly amongst these same clerics to be ascribed the "hierarchical claim" and how these clerics are to "exercise" such a claim (for example, what prevents one from ascribing such "hierarchical claim" to Bp. Pivarunas, but denying it to Bp. Slupski, or how can the faithful determine who are the charlatans and frauds, such as Ryan "St. Anne" Scott?).
For the umpteenth time, I have no interest in any "acephalous clerics" as such are of little to no relevance. Acephalous clerics really would have nothing to work with other than epikeia and ecclesia supplet, canons 209 and 2261, and the like. But the clergy whose cause I advance are not this at all. The source of their authority and canonical mission is direct and clear, and comes visibly from the visible Church, in accordance with Her laws in effect at the time and to this, of which they themselves comprise an integral and key component of. They are the traditional priests and bishops who, taken together worldwide, comprise the entire visible and lawful hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church today.
I point to them and say, "THERE is the Church." How can it be otherwise? There is no one else qualified remaining on the face of the earth. Heretics and other non-Catholics (even if of good will and intention) cannot be the hierarchical members of the Church. Neither can be those who are not validly ordained or consecrated, let alone, worse still, ignorant or delusional or malicious enough to pretend that they are. Even if one did not know the precise canonical mechanism by which our Traditional clergy's authority was given by the Church, it remains a simple and straightforward deduction. If the traditional priest and bishops did not comprise the Roman Catholic hierarchy, then no one does. Yet it is a dogma that there is and always shall be priests and bishops with authority in the Church, which in turn must always exist, and without corruption of purpose or teaching. Either these clerics (or at least some subset thereof) MUST be such legitimate hierarchical members of the Church, or else the dogma itself would be false.
But as is obvious from the evident limitations of this deduction, this deduction does not prove that everyone who hangs out their shingle as a traditional Catholic cleric has a right to rule in the Church of God; only that at least "some" from among them must have this. Legitimate priests are recognized by legitimate bishops, and by each other, or at the very least, by a legitimate bishop. But the question remains: How does one know if a bishop is a legitimate bishop of the Church? The Theological handbook, Dogmatic Theology, Volume 2, Christ's Church, by Msgr. G. Van Noort, on Pages 152-153, outlines two basic means by which one can identify a true and legitimate bishop. The first would be by tracing that bishop back to one of the apostles in his succession, and without any break through heresy, schism, or simony. The second would be by referring to the Pope and asking if the Pope recognizes said bishop as legitimate.
The first method found most frequent use in the opening few centuries of the Church. Obviously in these days however, tracing any particular bishop's episcopal succession clear back to any Apostle is wildly impractical, if possible at all. But in most ages, recourse to consulting the Pope is a most simple and direct means that works fully just as well. The only problem with the second is that in such a period of Sede Vacante as we have today (or any other Sede Vacante period in all the Church's history for that matter), there is no Pope to consult. Some might see this as a dead end. But it really is not.
The two methods, both being valid, can quite easily and properly be combined, and in fact would have to have been had any question arisen regarding any of the at least 21 bishops consecrated during the long papal vacancy of the 1200's. It works like this: You go back to when you last had a pope, and observe the list of all approved bishops, as recognized by that pope (second method). Then you simply follow the unbroken succession forward from that point (instead of having to go clear back to some Apostle) clear to today, so as to know who is legitimate (first method). As we know, the transfer to the heretical Œconomia nova of the Modernists, coupled with the complete desertion of the Catholic office (in the case of those already in place as bishops on November 21, 1964, those appointed by Modernists in many cases having never occupied Catholic offices in the first place) constitutes the official "break" that renders them incapable of being Apostolic.
But as I started to mention briefly before (back in part two) regarding those few bishops who did not abandon their Catholic office, such as Bishop De Castro-Meyer, namely that in keeping to their Catholic duties, regardless of what occasional nod their other new office may have obtained from them, they retained their offices as Catholic bishops. At least some one to two dozen did so, at least at first, though thus far, I am aware of only four from among all these who have provided for the future of the Church through imparting their episcopacy together with their canonical mission to successors, namely Archbishop Pierre Martin Ngô Đình Thục, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Bishop Antonio de Castro-Meyer, and Bishop Alfred Francis Mendez y Gonzalez. Thục had been appointed and chosen as a bishop by Pope Pius XI in 1938. Lefebvre and De Castro-Meyer were appointed and chosen as bishops by Pope Pius XII in 1947 and 1948. All three were recognized by Pope Pius XII as legitimate bishops clear to his death in 1958.
It is not certain how the Church will ultimately come to decide regarding John XXIII and Paul VI (prior to the latter's resignation per Canon 188 §3 on November 21, 1964) as to whether they were popes or not. If not, then their opinions were of no relevance, but if so that changes nothing since Thục, Lefebvre and De Castro-Meyer were all recognized as legitimate bishops clear through the reign (?) of John XXIII clear to his death in 1963, and also through the brief reign (?) of Paul VI clear to his resignation in 1964. The somewhat more interesting case however is that of Bishop Mendez, who was appointed and chosen as a bishop by John XXIII in 1960. Like the other three, he was recognized by John XXIII as legitimate clear to his death and by Paul VI clear to his resignation. If by any chance they were not legally popes in that period, the fact remains that his consecrator, Francis Joseph Cardinal Spellman, together with the co-consecrators Archbishop Edwin Vincent Byrne and Bishop Richard Henry Ackerman were all recognized as legitimate bishops by Pope Pius XII (and previous popes in the cases of Spellman and Byrne) clear to his death. Ergo, by the combination of the two methods described above, Bishop Mendez was also therefore a legitimate bishop, retaining not only a valid episcopacy but also the canonical mission.
And as hinted previously (in the case, specifically, of Bishop De Castro-Meyer), these bishops did not resign from their office as bishops, only "retired" (itself a Novus Ordo innovation) from their new and parallel office in the Œconomia nova of the Modernists, and so therefore it is not fair or right to claim that they were mere "retired" or "resigned" bishops. They were true Catholic bishops, authorized to function as such clear to their own deaths, in 1984 (Thục), 1991 (Lefebvre and de Castro-Meyer), and 1995 (Mendez).
The next question that comes up pertains to the legality to having consecrated successors in the absence of a living pope. Much noise and confusion has been generated owing to the fact that the bishops receive their jurisdiction and canonical mission from the Pope, and that this can and should and will be taken as a matter of doctrine. The Church has been officially and legally and nominally and visibly and materially without a pope since 1964, with some possibility of having been without one formally or in some other similar such senses for even longer. None of the few surviving bishops personally appointed by a living Pope (all now of respectable, and in some cases extraordinary, longevity) have publicly demonstrated any particular support for Tradition, and even if some one or two really are, albeit unknown to everyone, their time remaining in this earth cannot be long. And since the "crisis" will still be with us long after the last of them has passed away, looking to any of them as some technical basis of claiming that "Apostolicity still exists today" will be then quite impossible.
But what does this doctrine really mean? If it means that each and every bishop, in order to be a legitimate bishop of the Church, and throughout all of Church history (for doctrines, being eternally true, would necessarily apply equally to all possible ages of the Church), had to have been personally vetted and approved by a living pope personally, then the doctrine would be false, and so indeed some appear to have argued even after the publication of Mystici Corporis. Let us review carefully what Ludwig Ott had to say about this:
In the Encyclical "Mystici Corporis" (1943) Pope Pius XII says of the Bishops: "Each of them is also, as far as his own diocese is concerned, a true pastor, who tends and rules in the name of Christ the flock committed to his care. In discharging this function, however, they are not completely independent, but are subject to the proper authority of the Roman Pontiff, although they enjoy ordinary power of jurisdiction received directly from the Sovereign Pontiff himself" (quamvis ordinaria jurisdictionis potestate fruantur, immediate sibi ab eodem Pontifice Summo impertita). D 2287. Cf. D 1500.
The opinion cited (Papal Theory) corresponds best to the monarchical constitution of the Church. When the Pope united in himself the whole fullness of the pastoral power of the Church, then it corresponds to this that all incumbents of the offices subordinate to him should receive their power immediately from him, the representative of Christ on earth. This conception is favoured by the current practice, according to which the Pope authorizes the bishop nominated or ratified by him to guide a diocese, and requires the clergy and laity to obey him.
A second opinion (Episcopal Theory) assumes that each individual bishop receives his pastoral power direct from God, as does the Pope. The activity of the Pope in the nomination or ratification of a bishop is claimed to consist simply in that he allocates to the bishop a definite territory in which he is to exercise the power received immediately from God. In order to establish this theory it is argued that the bishops, as successors of the Apostles, receive their power immediately from Christ, not through the intermediation of Peter. In favour of the second view the historical fact is also urged that in Christian antiquity and in the early Middle Ages, the choice of bishop by clergy and people, or the nomination of a bishop by princes was not always and everywhere ratified by the Pope. It is asserted that a tacit ratification and conferring of the episcopal jurisdiction, such as is assumed by the exponents of the former view, is not demonstrable and is improbable.
The former opinion, which was already approved by Pius VI (D 1500), received a new authoritative confirmation by the Encyclical "Mystici Corporis," but the question still remains without final decision.
It is all too clear; the history of the Church bears all far too abundant witness that a claim to the effect that every bishop was nominated or ratified by a living pope personally simply cannot be maintained. Either the doctrine must allow for this papal will to be transmitted implicitly or legally even without the direct and personal intervention of a pope, or else the doctrine must be false. Note particularly how, in the interest of attempting to sustain the Episcopal Theory in the face of Mystici Corporis and other papal declarations, it becomes necessary to "assert" that the doctrine somehow precludes any such "implicit" or "legal will" that all accepting the doctrine are constrained to agree to, in the face of so much Church history.
It may seem a bit puzzling that Dr. Ott is sitting on the fence about this ("the question still remains without final decision") since the doctrine really was affirmed by Pope Pius XII, as concluded by (future) Cardinal Ottaviani of the Holy Office. The conclusion is clear, and the theologians who accept it all realize that the doctrine has to extend to not only acts of a living pope personally, but also to actions that are in accordance with the evident will of the Pope. As Msgr. Charles Journet puts it:
To the bishops it is given mediately, through the Pope: the Saviour, says Cajetan, sends down His power first on the head of the Church, and thence to the rest of the body. When a Pope is created the electors merely designate the person, and it is Christ who then confers on him immediately his dignity and power. But, when the Supreme Pontiff, either of himself or through others, invests bishops, the proper jurisdiction they receive does not come to them directly from God, it comes directly from the Sovereign Pontiff to whom Christ gives it in a plenary manner, and from whom it comes down to the bishops: somewhat after the manner of the life-pulse that begins in the heart and is transmitted thence to other organs. And that is why the Sovereign Pontiff must not be conceived as merely designating bishops who then receive directly from Christ their proper and ordinary authority; but as himself conferring the episcopal authority, having first received it from Christ in an eminent form.
And again, Msgr. G. Van Noort explains it thus:
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."
So, while the express, living, direct, personal, and explicit consent of the Pope is obviously not obtainable during this period of Sede Vacante, the implicit, or legal will of the Pope is a different matter and requires real consideration. As well documented in Church history, the vast majority of bishops during the first five centuries of the Church and again yet more in the early Middle Ages were not vetted personally by any pope, even when one was living at the time of their consecration. But they were all vetted by approved bishops, and with the assistance of others by quite a variety of approved mechanisms, such as election by all members (lay and clergy alike) of a flock, recommendation by Christian secular princes, election by priests of a flock, election by the neighboring bishops, and finally selection/appointment by their Patriarch of whatever particular Rite they belong to. Furthermore, bishops have been selected, appointed, and consecrated and set over particular flocks during periods of Sede Vacante, though as time went on this practice came to be limited to only the more lengthy ones.
In all of these historical cases, the Pope would learn of the consecration after the fact, either when word of it gets back to him, or (if occurring during a period of Sede Vacante) once there is a next pope. And of course, the Pope has the prerogative to rescind such an election, should he disagree with the appointment and consecration of any particular bishop. But the bishop so appointed did not need to wait for some word of him to get to the pope and some word of approval to return back from the pope to him in order to take possession of his flock and begin ruling them in the interests of the Gospel. As it was, rejection of anyone as bishop during those times was extremely rare, so rare in fact that I am not aware of any instances of that happening, for the choices were carefully and soberly made with a clear eye to the requirements of the Pope and the good of the Church. So even when a pope is unable or unwilling to participate personally in the selection and appointment of bishops, the will of the pope remains always a key factor, being keenly known and respected by all of those participating in the process.
But as is known, over the years, the procedure was gradually refined, first to name particular individuals, then to insist that those named individuals be Patriarchs of some Rite, and finally for the pope to reserve all such decisions to himself personally. It should not be hard to see that all of these changes are the product of ecclesial law (the will of popes and their designates and representatives), and not some sort of eternal necessity tied to the doctrine, for the doctrine has been legitimately interpreted and applied otherwise by the Church in various other ages and times.
But what human law sets up, human law can take down, and has in this case. We know that in the time of Pope Pius XII, the law had already been tightened down to the point that it actually functioned in the exact same manner as the naïve interpretation of the doctrine (as "asserted" by its opponents in favor of the Episcopal Theory). Against the illicit succession created by the Chinese "Patriotic" church, the pope reaffirmed the law, and then buttressed the law with the doctrine to the effect that any bishop consecrated contrary to the known will of the Pope (as the new Chinese bishops really WERE being consecrated against his will as Pope) would have no formal apostolicity, no canonical mission, no real (Catholic) jurisdiction.
It is one thing to argue whether consent of the Pope can be implied in a given case in which the will of the Pope is uncertain or unavailable, but quite another to claim such implied consent when the will of the Pope IS known and expressly against it in the particular case. That is the applicability of the doctrine to the case of the Chinese schismatic bishops and church.
And then the law was changed. Once again, it was Lumen Gentium which did it, this time by declaring that "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. ... Therefore it pertains to the bishops to admit newly elected members into the Episcopal body by means of the sacrament of Orders. ... 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."
In other words, in this document the "Pope," in his last official act as such, and by which his own personal resignation was also effected, together with all the prelates of the Church gathered in an Ecumenical Council, delegated to all bishops of any kind the authority to make this kind of decision that in recent centuries had come to be reserved exclusively to the Pope, personally. With this on the books, papal consent is legally implied for all instances of episcopal consecration, bar none.
This stripped away all parts of the ecclesial laws in effect up to that point, reducing everything back down to the bare bones requirements of the doctrine itself. This was done with the purpose of attempting to grant (as future Vatican II documents would attempt) salvation-giving authority and jurisdiction to the various schismatic bishops with whom they wanted to participate in "ecumenical" ventures and worship with. In this manner they would now be able claim that the various schismatic bodies of bishops were "other lungs" of the Church and so treat them treat them as canonical equals. Only by means of this "equality of episcopal jurisdiction" for those consecrated without Papal approval or even in defiance against it, could a "Balamand" agreement exist, or Benedict XVI's 2007 document recommending the schismatic Patriotic Church clergy to his followers in China.
For myself, I doubt this would have the power to confer a canonical mission on some bishop who lacked it, owing to any heresy of his or of his predecessors in the separate and independent and parallel succession. After all, even if a schismatic bishop were officially empowered and authorized to convey "everything that he has" to his successor, that still does not provide any valid source of a canonical mission. One cannot give what one does not have. But of course, in each case of those there was some heresy, or at least some morally impossible object in mind (e. g. annulment of a valid marriage), which drove the creation of such a succession. Those with such heretical beliefs or nefarious purposes cannot be the recipients of a Catholic canonical mission in any case.
In the case of our successions, however, the whole purpose was to preserve the Church and the Faith, something not possible elsewhere, nor by any other means, and also not possible without sustaining a living hierarchy. The whole point and purpose of every one of them was to uphold all that the Church has always stood for, something no one else has proven willing and able to do. Nothing that any Catholic bishop ever does could ever be more faithful, more papal, or more Catholic than that. It is not possible for the will of the Pope to be opposed to the continuance of the Church by whatever means, even this most desperate one. The will of the Pope could only (at most) be opposed to some of the particular choices that were made as to who should have been so chosen, but not to the bare fact of the successions, and not to all of them en toto.
When four of what few Catholic bishops as did not abandon their offices or their flocks provided for the future hierarchy of the Church, they did as "the pope" would have them do and will most certainly want and appreciate and recognize. And they did it all within the letter of the law, making them and their successors (those who follow in their footsteps, but not those who deviated, for example to create a new "Palmarian" church - repudiated by Bishop Thuc from whom the consecrations were obtained through deception) fully qualified as Roman Catholic bishops, complete with the canonical mission, with authority and jurisdiction delegated to them visibly and legally by the Church, and invested with all authority needed to act in the name of Holy Mother Church.
It is interesting to note that the thieves and illegitimate among traditional clergy are quickly and easily called out by the rest as such and unlike the legitimate ones have a very fly-by-night existence and no good reputation among traditional Catholics. If a person is looking for the true shepherds, any wolf will out before long as that is difficult to conceal. And in the meantime, the graces would just be as conspicuously absent as they are in the Novus Ordo. Serious and pious Catholics will only go where they are truly fed the true sacraments and true teaching with the authority of the Church, and as everyone's experiences unanimously have shown it is only with the traditional priests and bishops that supernatural graces are found.
And it is not difficult to tell, therefore, who is legitimate, and who is not, for the latter must either draw their Sacrament of Orders from some schismatic line (Old Catholic, East Orthodox, Duarte de Costa, etc.), or else through a legitimate line, but through theft or deception on their part (Palmar de Troya). The legitimate successions are therefore quite easy to verify. On the priestly level, priests should be affiliated with a traditional bishop. The only exceptions would be those very few and fewer priests given a parish by any true bishop way back when and continuing in their assignment now long after the bishop has passed away, or been driven away, and replaced only with non-Catholic Novus Ordo functionaries. While such priests are strongly encouraged to affiliate with a traditional bishop, it is not an absolute requirement in order for them to possess lawful faculties as a priest.
One thing that follows from all of that is that the "obvious" Catholic leaders, our traditional priests and bishops, are also the visible hierarchy of the Church. While one might need to be at least somewhat conversant in ecclesiology and canon law to see the legalities of this, even the simplest pious soul can see the truth of it, and the self-evident validity of turning to those clergy who have distinguished themselves for their doctrinal orthodoxy, authentic Catholic sacraments, and true pastoral care and concern for the flock. This finding in fact requires nothing of ordinary Catholics that they are not already doing for the good of their own souls and of the souls of their family members and friends.
Contrast that with the suspicions and doubts surreptitiously spread by extreme home-aloners and/or Novus ordo plants, which only serve to cast aspersions upon the few Catholic clerics who are providing for the edification and continuance of the Church, and to make people feel they can't trust anyone. What all that suspicion really means would be that persons cannot trust God to protect His Church, and that they all have no one else to go to but their own limited resources for spiritual guidance and strength. In that way lies pride and arrogance and any number of little self-made "popes" who have nothing better to do than excommunicate the hell out of each other and everyone else.
What all of this really comes down to therefore is that, far from being some bunch of nobodies from nowhere, our traditional priests and bishops that I have been advocating (and shall continue to do so long as God grants me life with which to do it) are in fact the sole remaining vestigial remnants of that original Œconomia that Jesus Christ personally set up with His own disciples, as reported in Sacred Scripture. I defend them purely because I defend that. My place here is assisting in the gathering and preservation of these vestigial remnants, from which the Catholic Church in all future ages must necessarily come.
Finally, one cannot become familiar with the theological authorities without finding abundant support for the fact that the Church necessarily has authority woven all throughout its structure. Those who would deny our traditional clergy their rightful authority and canonical mission in the Church have one and all seemed all too content to have the authority of the Church either totally non-existent or, what amounts to the same thing, totally unknown and unidentifiable. Heretics and those who schismatically align themselves with heretics (namely all Novus Ordo "clergy" along with all other categories of "clergy" classed by the Church as heretical and/or schismatic) cannot comprise Catholic authority. Neither can the Church's authority be limited to unknown phantoms with no actual practical rule of any identifiable persons or recognition by any of the flock.
It is therefore to be regarded as fully backed by all known authorities that the authority of the Church can only reside with, or at least among, those priests and bishops who are conspicuous in their Catholic Faith, unassailably valid, and who possess flocks which are blessed by them to a supernatural degree. The traditional priests and bishops I espouse alone fit the bill. Should anyone wish even so to deny the Church's clerics their authority, let them provide the name and office and location of whatever person they deem to have some superior claim to that of our present day traditional clerics, and let them demonstrate that this individual is clearly and fully orthodox in doctrine, unassailably valid in orders of the episcopal grade, and most important, possessing anything more than what I have shown here for our traditional bishops and their attached priests, in terms of any source of a canonical mission. Let them also demonstrate why it is this individual has so long been willing to abandon the entire Church to the whims of the recourses various Catholics have needed to take, and why it is he has not bothered to connect up with any of the other remaining Catholics today.
And finally therefore, it is morally imperative that the Church's real and official ministers be so recognized as such, by themselves, by each other, and by all of us the Laity, for exactly the same reason that it has always been a moral imperative for all Catholics to recognize the real and official ministers of the Church. How can a person be considered a Catholic if he says of his own priest, his regular confessor, the man who officiated at his wedding and baptized his children and buried his deceased relatives, who has and demonstrates a true pastor's concern for his soul as one who knows and understands that he will have to render an account for each sheep in his care, how can he say that this priest has no authority and is nothing but a sacrament vending machine? Am I the only one who senses blasphemy in such a criminally wicked and grave disrespect for a sacred person sent by God's Own Church?
In part seven, I will continue hammering on this dilemma that faces all of those who oppose the authority of our Traditional Catholic clerics, then show how it is that, as I wrote clear back in Chapter One of my book, the Traditional Catholic Movement IS the Roman Catholic Church, and from there begin addressing further ludicrous claims made against not only myself, but against all that has any right to call itself Catholic.
Griff L. Ruby
Griff's book is available from iUniverse.com Books for $26.95 or can be read on-line at www.the-pope.com We at the DailyCatholic strongly urge you to share it with all you can for that could be the gentle shove that moves your friends back to where the True Faith resides forever, rooted in the Truths and Traditions of Holy Mother Church as Christ intended and promised.