“Saint” Paul VI’s gift that keeps on (not) giving…

They Are Really Not Bishops: A Response to “Fr.” John Hunwicke on Novus Ordo Episcopal Consecrations


It is a topic that most traditionalists in the Vatican II Church like to ignore or dismiss, yet few things could be of graver consequence: the question of the validity of the 1968 rite of episcopal consecration promulgated by “Pope Saint” Paul VI on June 18, 1968.


In recent weeks, the blogging Anglican-priest-turned-Novus-Ordo-priest Rev. John Hunwicke has made an attempt to defend the validity of Paul VI’s new rite, and he did so in three installments on his blog, Fr. Hunwicke’s Mutual Enrichment:

This post is Part 1 of our rejoinder to Mr. Hunwicke, who is in a particularly piteous position inasmuch as he’s gone through two priestly ordination ceremonies in his life and is still not a priest, as will be shown.

Hunwicke was received into the Vatican II Sect in 2011 through the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, an entity created by “Pope” Benedict XVI to facilitate the conversion of Anglicans to the Modernist Church. Hunwicke was putatively ordained a priest by Leonard Kenney, a Novus Ordo auxiliary bishop of Birmingham, England, on June 27, 2012. Photos of the ordination ceremony can be viewed here. Although the rite used was the traditional Catholic one, which is naturally valid, the ordination was conferred by a man who himself is not a valid bishop nor even a priest but a mere layman.

How do we know this? We know this because “Bishop” Kenney received both his priestly and his episcopal ordinations in the Novus Ordo rite of Paul VI, having been ordained a priest on June 29, 1969, and a bishop on August 24, 1987 (the Paul VI rite became mandatory on April 6, 1969). In fairness, we must concede that it is possible that he was validly ordained a deacon, depending on when that took place, but it is really irrelevant to our present discussion since he is definitely not a bishop and therefore had no power to make Hunwicke a priest, and that is where the crux of the matter lies.

The moment it didn’t happen (June 27, 2012):
Mr. Kenney makes Mr. Hunwicke a presbyter according to the order of Montini

Thus it is clear that the question, “Are they really bishops?”, is of particular relevance to the Rev. Hunwicke and to those who seek to avail themselves of the sacraments at his hands, but it also pertains to all who are involved with the Roman rite of the Vatican II Sect, where the last few remaining valid priests — those ordained in the old rite before the changes — are quickly passing away.

We will now examine the arguments Hunwicke makes in the first of his three posts he has published on the issue.

Response to “Are They Really Bishops? (1)”:
A Preliminary Challenge and the Spiritus Principalis (“Governing Spirit”)

Right off the bat, Hunwicke assures his readers that he is, naturally, totally above the oh-so-silly theological argumentation of the Sedevacantists: “I have no intention of even seeming to accept the possibility of a ‘sedevacantist’ analysis being worth taking seriously” (italics given). He then explains that he is only giving a three-part response because others have taken our argumentation seriously and are now worried. We thus express our gratitude to the Reverend that, no matter his motivation, he has deigned to lower himself to respond to the unworthy sedevacantist case; and we encourage readers to familiarize themselves with it and then make their own judgments as to which side is to be taken seriously and which isn’t:

In what follows, we will assume that the reader is well acquainted with the basic arguments of the debate, which have been summarized here.

Having made clear why he is bothering to weigh in on this debate at all, Hunwicke begins by wielding a red herring of gigantic proportions to deflect from the issue at hand and put sedevacantists on the defensive. He writes:

The preliminary logical question to be put to those who find themselves tempted by Sedevacantism is: “You claim to hold the basic Catholic dogmas that the Church is indefectible; and that the Bishop of Rome holds a unique and God-given place within the life of that Church. How many more decades does the Roman See have to be vacant before these combined doctrines become impossible for sedevacantists to hold?”

(italics given)

Although this question is perfectly fine to ask, it has nothing to do per se with the theological question under discussion, since the invalidity of Paul VI’s “pontificate” is not presumed in our argumentation but, rather, is inferred as a logically necessary consequence.

In any case, we are happy to briefly address the challenge posed. The divinely-revealed truth that the Catholic Church is indefectible is the reason why we are sedevacantists, for only if the apostasy of the Vatican II Church has been perpetrated by charlatans — rather than true Vicars of Christ — can the Church’s indefectibility be upheld.

We do not pretend to know how long God will allow the current mess to continue, but with Fr. Edmund O’Reilly we understand that “we must not be too ready to pronounce on what God may permit. …[C]ontingencies regarding the Church, not excluded by the Divine promises, cannot be regarded as practically impossible, just because they would be terrible and distressing in a very high degree” (The Relations of the Church to Society [London: John Hodges, 1892], pp. 287-288).

We must accept that we are dealing with mystery here — it is called the “mystery of inquity” (2 Thess 2:7) for good reason, after all — and that not all the answers are readily available. This is Satan’s last big hurrah against the Mystical Body of Christ, and rather than being wise in our own conceits (cf. Is 5:21), we must simply believe faithfully and without wavering what God has revealed (cf. 2 Cor 5:7; Lk 24:25), lest we be deceived by the “operation of error” (2 Thess 2:10) permitted by God before the end of time (cf. Mt 24:24).

In denying the validity of the pontificates of the papal claimants after Pius XII, we merely follow where the evidence leads, without professing to have all the answers. In acknowledging that the Vatican II Church is not the Catholic Church, we are only following evidence to its logically necessary conclusion, always ready to affirm what is possible in order to keep from being led astray by what we know is impossible, namely, that the Catholic Church should defect and suddenly turn from her divine mission, fornicate with the errors of the world, offer invalid pseudo-sacraments, and be the cause of people’s spiritual ruin rather than the Ark of Salvation. Yet this is precisely what the Vatican II Sect has done, and hence the sedevacantist conclusion is necessary.

It appears as if Hunwicke uses this diversionary tactic before any discussion of the ordination conundrum in order to predispose his readers against the sedevacantist argumentation concerning the Novus Ordo rite of ordination. He knows that if the rite turns out to be invalid according to the principles of traditional Catholic sacramental theology, then Paul VI could not possibly have been a true Pope, and this, in turn, means that sedevacantists would be right in their rejection of his claim to the Papacy. And so it seems that the purpose of Hunwicke’s preliminary diversion is to ensure that readers will not draw the sedevacantist conclusion under any circumstance, even if they find his subsequent argumentation unconvincing. Thus we suspect that the former Anglican has engaged in what is called “poisoning the well”.

The question Mr. Hunwicke must answer, on the other hand, is how he thinks the indefectibility of the Church is preserved if the Pope can promulgate an ordination rite for the Universal Church that is demonstrably invalid. But since he disputes that this is so, we must finally turn our attention to that subject matter, rather than allow ourselves to be distracted any further by peripheral issues.

Hunwicke begins the first of his arguments ad rem as follows:

It is suggested that the ‘form’ used in the post-Vatican II rites for the consecration of a Bishop (which is what I am going to concentrate upon) is insufficiently precise. But any language, and any specialised subform of any language, has its own internal logic. If the Church, in the new rites, in effect says “We decree that the words spiritus principalis or pneuma hegemonikon hereafter and herein are to have the meaning of episkope“, then that is the meaning those words do have, even if they didn’t have it beforehand. Just as legislatures enacting legislation, or solicitors composing legal agreements, commonly begin by defining terms….

(italics given)

For proper context, let’s review the ordination prayer the 1968 rite of episcopal ordination mandates as the form of the sacrament:

So now pour out upon this chosen one that power which is from you, the governing Spirit [Spiritus Principalis] whom you gave to your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, the Spirit given by him to the holy apostles, who founded the Church in every place to be your temple for the unceasing glory and praise of your name.

(Antipope Paul VI, “Apostolic Constitution” Pontificalis Romani, June 18, 1968)

Unfortunately, in his post Hunwicke doesn’t say just where the Novus Ordo Church actually defines the Spiritus Principalis to be the Holy Ghost, and the term is certainly not defined thus in any official document accompanying the promulgation of the new rite. Fr. Bernard Botte, O.S.B., the main creator of the new ordination rite, did publish a brief explanation in the official Vatican journal Notitiae (vol. 10, n. 12 [Dec. 1974], pp. 410-411), but this was not until five years after the new rite had become mandatory to use, and one may surmise that he did so precisely because there was confusion about the meaning of Spiritus Principalis and what it signified.

However, even if we grant that the mysterious “Governing Spirit” does mean the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, the problem remains. As we explained last year in our main post on the controversy:

…[E]ven if one were to say that the totally abstruse phrase “Spiritum principalem” (“Governing Spirit”) is a clear reference to the Holy Ghost, the fact remains that it is not stated [in the prayer] just what the Holy Ghost is supposed to be doing. God the Father is being asked to “pour out” the Holy Ghost (or at least that “Governing Spirit”) — but to do what? To what end? We’re not told.

(“Unholy Orders: 50 Years of Invalid Ordinations in the Novus Ordo Church”, Novus Ordo Wire, June 18, 2018; italics given.)

We recall that in 1947 Pope Pius XII declared:

Wherefore, after invoking the divine light, We of Our Apostolic Authority and from certain knowledge declare, and as far as may be necessary decree and provide: that the matter, and the only matter, of the Sacred Orders of the Diaconate, the Priesthood, and the Episcopacy is the imposition of hands; and that the form, and the only form, is the words which determine the application of this matter, which univocally signify the sacramental effects – namely the power of Order and the grace of the Holy Spirit – and which are accepted and used by the Church in that sense.

(Pope Pius XII, Apostolic Constitution Sacramentum Ordinis, n. 4; underlining added.)

Thus, even if we grant that the form of the 1968 rite of episcopal ordination refers to the Holy Ghost when it invokes the “Governing Spirit”, by no means does that prayer indicate what the Governing Spirit is supposed to accomplish in the man being ordained. In other words, the ordination prayer does not, as required by Pius XII, “univocally signify the sacramental effects” (the word “univocally” means “unambiguously”, “having only one meaning”). Simply calling down the Holy Spirit upon someone obviously does not equal an ordination to the episcopacy, for the Third Person of the Trinity is also invoked, for example, in the ordination rite for deacons.

Thus Hunwicke’s first post in his three-part series on Holy Orders turns out to be rather toothless. He concludes it by stating: “To be continued for two more sections. I sha’n’t enable comments till I’ve finished.” As of Jan. 16 — well over a week after his final installment was published — his combox is still closed.


Continued in Part 2.

Image sources: sthughofcluny.org / newliturgicalmovement.org
Licenses: Fair use / fair use

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