“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


(continued from Part 1…)

Response to “Are They Really Bishops? (2)”:
Invalidity + Invalidity = Validity?

In his second post, the Rev. Hunwicke argues — without providing a single shred of evidence — that the episcopal ordination formula promulgated by Paul VI in 1968 “was used for centuries by Oriental communities in communion with Rome”. In other words, “Pope” Paul was merely proposing for the Roman rite what Eastern rites had been using all along at some point or another.

Although our ex-Anglican blogger apparently does not see the need to document this claim — Hunwicke locutus est, nonne causa finita est? — it is by no means a new argument and was, in fact, made by Paul VI himself. To answer it, we refer the reader simply to Fr. Anthony Cekada’s extensive treatment of the matter in his original article, “Absolutely Null and Utterly Void: The 1968 Rite of Episcopal Consecration” (2006), especially Section IV (pp. 4-7). If “Fr.” Hunwicke has any evidence to refute what is presented there, he ought to provide the documentation.

Next, Hunwicke makes an astounding argument that needs to be quoted at length. He writes:

Pius XII (1947) laid down that the Form in the (then) Roman Pontifical for consecrating a Bishop was Comple in sacerdote tuo ministerii tui summam etc..

(1) Are you quite sure, O thou sedevacantist, that this is explicit enough? If I have up my sleeve (I’m not saying I do) an example of a medieval pope who, already being a bishop, had this read over him when he was promoted to the See of Peter, would you conclude that it automatically became too vague to signify the Episcopate? If not, why not?

(2) And if I have up my sleeve early manuscripts of this prayer (I’m not saying I do) which read mysterii rather than ministerii, will this variant still be explicit enough for you? If not, will you admit that very many medieval bishops, consecrated with the use of this form, were not validly consecrated, including almost certainly many popes? If not, why not?

(3) And if I have up my sleeve (I’m not saying I do) a medieval rite of presbyteral ordination in which that same formula was used to ordain a mere priest, would you still be consistent enough to advance the argument that the words, since they were used in a context other than episcopal consecration, manifestly do not univocally signify the episcopate? And that therefore most, if not all, medieval and later Western bishops were not validly ordained? If not, why not?

Be careful how you answer those questions: I have capacious sleeves.

(italics and bold print given)

We have no doubt that Mr. Hunwicke has a few more tricks up his sleeve, but tricks they will remain.

To answer his questions:

(1) Yes, we are quite certain that what Pope Pius XII decreed to be the form of episcopal consecration does indeed fulfill the requirements for validity he laid out in the same document, namely, that the effects of the sacrament — the power of order and the grace of the Holy Spirit — be signified in an unambiguous way. The words of the essential form were defined by Pope Pius to be these: “Comple in Sacerdote tuo ministerii tui summam, et ornamentis totius glorificationis instructum coelestis unguenti rore sanctifica” — in English: “Perfect in Thy priest the fullness of thy ministry and, clothing him in all the ornaments of spiritual glorification, sanctify him with the Heavenly anointing” (Sacramentum Ordinis, n. 5). As Fr. Cekada explains:

This form univocally signifies the sacramental effects as follows:
(1) “The fullness of Thy ministry,” “raiment of all glory” = power of the Order of episcopacy.
(2) “The dew of heavenly anointing” = grace of the Holy Ghost.

(“Absolutely Null and Utterly Void”, sec. II.F, p. 4)

These words “determine the application of” the imposition of hands and “univocally signify the sacramental effects” and are “are accepted and used by the Church in that sense”, according to Pope Pius XII.

End of story.

(2) Yes, the variant would still be explicit enough, whether it be mysterii or ministerii, and in the history of the Church both have been used at some point (apparently the Pontificals had ministerii, whereas the Sacramentaries used mysterii). And why shouldn’t the term mysterii be explicit enough? The ordination prayer would then read: “Perfect in Thy priest the fullness of thy mystery and, clothing him in all the ornaments of spiritual glorification, sanctify him with the Heavenly anointing.” This still signifies unequivocally the sacramental effects of the episcopal order and the grace of the Holy Ghost.

Commenting on the difference between mysterii and ministerii, the Novus Ordo liturgist Pierre Jounel notes that these “variants [are] due simply to the negligence of copyists” (“Ordinations”, in A. G. Martimort, ed. The Church at Prayer III: The Sacraments [Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1987] p. 153). The copying mistake probably went unnoticed for the simple reason that mystery also makes good sense in the prayer, since mysterium is simply another word for sacramentum. On this point, the Catholic Encyclopedia states that “where the Latins use sacramentum the Greeks use mysterion (mystery).”

This argument too, then, is another non-starter.

(3) Concerning Hunwicke’s third point, we are quite confident that the formula “Perfect in Thy priest the fullness of thy ministry…” was never validly used to ordain a deacon to the priesthood. If our English blogger has some medieval manuscript up his presbyteral sleeve that says otherwise, it would be wise to question the authenticity or at least the function of the manuscript.

It is really a bizarre form of argumentation Hunwicke advances in his second installment. He is essentially attempting to prevail in this debate by using the tu quoque fallacy, coupled with a contradiction of Pope Pius XII. If his argumentation were sound, he would have succeeded not in proving that Novus Ordo ordinations are valid but in proving that traditional Catholic ordinations are not valid either — or else that Pope Pius XII erred when he issued his definition in Sacramentum Ordinis.

We have news for the former Anglican: Invalidity plus invalidity does not equal validity. An ambiguous ordination formula doesn’t become any less ambiguous by arguing that other ordination formulas are ambiguous too.

To sum up: It is the definitive (and quite possibly infallible) teaching of Pope Pius XII that “the form must be expressed in such words that express the grace signified by each sacrament or Ordination” (Rev. Francis Solá, Sacrae Theologiae Summa IVB: On Holy Orders and Matrimony, n. 95). Paul VI’s enigmatic calling down of the “Governing Spirit” (see Part 1) for some unspecified purpose simply doesn’t do that.

To be concluded in Part 3.

Image source: sthughofcluny.org
License: fair use

Share this content now:

No Comments

Be the first to start a conversation

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.