“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 2 and Part 1)

Response to “Are They Really Bishops? (3)”:
The Cardinal Gasparri Argument

Finally, we come to the third and last installment of the Rev. John Hunwicke’s argumentation on the 1968 rite of episcopal ordination. There the formerly Anglican Englishman delivers what he must believe to be the deathblow to our position, the coup de grâce that represents the culmination of all the theological prowess he has deigned to share with us unworthy ones on this topic.

But before he does so, the Reverend makes a preliminary comment that recaps an argument he had already made:

Sedevacantists have argued that the words in the post-Conciliar Form for consecrating Bishops, spiritus principalis, are insufficiently univocal (unambiguous) to denote the ordo episcopalis. I have pointed out that the same problem could be urged against the corresponding words which Pius XII declared to be the Form: ministerii tui summam. This phrase could perfectly well have applied to the Ministry of the Roman Pontiff himself; and, since the Rite we are speaking of was Roman, quite possibly this is what it originally did mean. And there is a manuscript variant mysterii tui summam … what exactly would that ‘unambiguously’ refer to? Did your sedevacantist indoctrinators tell you how to explain that away?

(italics and bold print given)

Again, if Hunwicke could prove — as he apparently attempts to do here — that the form Pius XII declared to be univocal in its conferral of the episcopal order, were nonetheless ambiguous, he would not have succeeded in proving his own ordination valid but in proving Pius XII’s decree erroneous. Since Sacramentum Ordinis, however, reads like an infallible definition, and is, in any case, most authoritative and therefore binding on consciences, Hunwicke will not want to go there.

As we said in Part 1, even if we were to grant that the Spiritus Principalis (“Governing Spirit”) is the Holy Ghost, the ordination prayer of Novus Ordo episcopal consecrations simply does not express what the Holy Ghost is supposed to accomplish in the soul of the one upon whom He is being called. To say that it is the same Holy Ghost who was also given to the Apostles does nothing to signify the episcopacy — for the Holy Spirit did not just make the Apostles bishops but also soldiers of Christ through confirmation, for example.

Hunwicke’s claim that the sacramental form defined by Pope Pius XII could also be considered ambiguous is based on nothing but his own musings at to what it supposedly “could” and “quite possibly did” mean. According to Fr. Pierre Jounel, the Novus Ordo liturgist we quoted in Part 2, the prayer Pius XII decreed to be essential and necessary for validity “had been used in the Roman Church ever since the fifth century…” (“Ordinations”, in A. G. Martimort, ed. The Church at Prayer III: The Sacraments [Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1987], p. 175) — apparently in both the mysterii and the ministerii variants — and Pope Pius declared that this terminology is “accepted and used by the Church” as “univocally signify[ing] the sacramental effects” (Sacramentum Ordinis, n. 4). Therefore, the burden of proof is not on us but on the English blogger. That’s proof he needs to provide, not simply personal musings about what a word “could” or “quite possibly did” mean, with no evidence given whatsoever.

Next, Mr. Hunwicke launches his ultimate argument:

In any case, before 1947, the communis sententia among approved manualists (this is summed up by Cardinal Gasparri, 1852-1934, Secretary of State under Benedict XV and Pius XI) saw the Form for episcopal Consecration as being three quite different words: Accipe Spiritum Sanctum. Bishops, when consecrating a new bishop before 1947, intended to consecrate him when they opened their mouths and said these words, not when they uttered the words which Pius XII subsequently selected and declared to be the Form.

Are those three words sufficiently precise to indicate, univocally, the Episcopate? By your standards, O thou sedevacantist, surely not; they actually appeared also in presbyteral ordinations according to the pre-Conciliar rites (they were said over me in 1968) and they are found in the Tridentine rite of ordination to the Diaconate, and might even without  inappropriateness be used in Confirmation. If (like popes, bishops and theologians for hundreds of years) you are happy with these vague words Accipe Spiritum Sanctum as the Form for episcopal consecration, why do you have such a problem with the rather more explicit, distinctly less vague, words calling for the granting of the Spiritus principalis?

(italics and bold print given)

First, let’s point out that Hunwicke does not even possess the courtesy to provide one shred of evidence (that is, documentation or citation information) regarding his claims. He simply asserts, demands that people believe him, and then pushes the burden on his critics to do the research. Thankfully, we have plenty of tools available — thanks in large part to your generosity — and were able to find the source, and then some.

Second, let’s demystify Hunwicke’s Latin. He says that before 1947 — that is, before Pope Pius XII issued his Apostolic Constitution Sacramentum Ordinis to settle the matter — the “communis sententia” among theologians was a different and highly ambiguous form. What is communis sententia? It is a Latin term that means “common teaching” or “common opinion” and is one of the theological grades of certainty (other grades include dogma, doctrine, probable opinion, etc.). Thus, whatever the common theological view may have been up until the time that the Pope made an authoritative pronouncement, nevertheless this grade of certainty does not rise above the level of mere opinion, because, although communis sententia means it “is accepted by theologians generally”, nevertheless “in itself [it] belongs to the field of free opinions” (Rev. Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, 4th ed. [St. Louis, MO: Herder, 1960], p. 10; cf. Leo F. Stelten, Dictionary of Ecclesiastical Latin [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1995], s.v. “sententia”).

But Hunwicke is wrong even on that point: Although the position of Cardinal Pietro Gasparri (1852-1934) may have been the common opinion before Pope Leo XIII’s bull Apostolic Curae (1896), it definitely was no longer held afterwards, as we will see later in this post. Thus, it is simply not true to say that the Gasparri position was held by all or most until 1947, and of course our English blogger provides no evidence in support of his thesis anyway.

Third, let’s finally have a look at the actual passage in which Cardinal Gasparri discusses the sacramental form of episcopal consecration, which Rev. Hunwicke is marketing as a slam dunk against Sedevacantists. We have underlined the applicable portion:

Now, however, among all these rites which the Roman Pontifical prescribes in the consecration of a bishop it is the common opinion that the matter is the imposition of hands by the consecrating bishop (rather, the consecrating bishops) and the form are the corresponding words receive the Holy Spirit. We, according to the criterion given under n. 988, think that, supposing the imposition of hands of the bishop [being done] with only [reciting] the preface without those words: receive the Holy Spirit, it is a valid consecration, just as it was valid in the ancient liturgy. … Likewise, supposing the imposition of hands by the bishop [being done] with only [the recitation of] those words: receive the Holy Spirit, without [the recitation of] the preface, we admit together with the common opinion that the ordination is valid (n. 990), because although those words alone, considered in themselves, are undetermined and do not express sufficiently the conferring of the episcopal order, nevertheless they are determined enough not only by the preface but also by the very ceremony itself without the preface.

(Pietro Gasparri, Tractatus Canonicus de Sacra Ordinatione, vol. 2 [Paris: Delhomme et Briguet, 1894], n. 1109; italics given; underlining added; our translation.)

So, Cardinal Gasparri says that the common opinion holds that an ordination to the episcopacy is valid with merely the words Accipe Spiritum Sanctum (“receive the Holy Spirit”) because, although these words in themselves are not specific enough to signify the episcopacy, they nonetheless do signify sufficiently in conjunction with the rest of the ceremony.

This position would indeed contradict the sedevacantist argument regarding the invalidity of episcopal consecration in the Novus Ordo rite of 1968. We say “would” because this is not the end of the story by any stretch. It so happens that Cardinal Gasparri published his 2-volume treatise De Sacra Ordinatione a couple of years before Pope Leo XIII released his Apostolic Letter Apostolicae Curae (1896) and over 50 years before Pope Pius XII issued the Apostolic Constitution Sacramentum Ordinis (1947), both of which overturned what Gasparri identified as the “common opinion.”

Before we continue, it will be useful to review briefly the sequence of prayers and actions that are used in the traditional Roman rite for an episcopal consecration.

After the chanting of the Litany of the Saints, the bishop-elect (the priest who is about to become a bishop) kneels before the consecrator (the bishop who confers the sacrament), who, having placed the open book of the Gospels on his shoulders, imposes hands on the bishop-elect, saying, “Accipe Spiritum Sanctum” (“Receive the Holy Ghost”). Afterwards, the consecrator prays: “Propitiare, Domine, supplicationibus nostris, et inclinato super hunc famulum tuum cornu gratiae sacerdotalis, benedictionis tuae in eum effunde virtutem. Per Dominum nostrum Jesus Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit, et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus” (“Be propitious, O Lord, to our supplications, and inclining the horn of sacerdotal grace above this Thy servant, pour out upon him the power of Thy blessing. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God”).

Then the consecrator extends his hands, and the ceremony continues with the following responsory:

V. Per omnia saecula saeculorum. (World without end.)

R. Amen.

V. Dominus vobiscum. (The Lord be with you.)

R. Et cum spiritu tuo. (And with thy spirit.)

V. Sursum corda. (Lift up your hearts.)

R. Habemus ad Dominum. (We have them lifted up to the Lord.)

V. Gratias agamus Domino Deo nostro. (Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.)

R. Dignum et justum est. (It is worthy and just.)

The consecrator then prays what is called the Preface, which is what Pope Pius XII in Sacramentum Ordinis, n. 5, declared to be the form of the sacrament of episcopal consecration (of which only the underlined part, however, is “essential and therefore required for validity”, according to Pope Pius):

Vere dignum et justum est, aequum et salutare, nos tibi semper, et ubique gratias agere, Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, aeterne Deus, honor omnium dignitatum, quae gloriae tuae sacris famulantur ordinibus.  Deus, qui Moysen famulum tuum secreti familiaris affatu, inter caetera coelestis documenta culturae, de habitu quoque indumenti sacerdotalis instituens, electum Aaron mystico amictu vestiri inter sacra jussisti, ut intelligentiae sensum de exemplis priorum caperet secutura posteritas, ne eruditio doctrinae tuae ulli deesset aetati.  Cum et apud veteres reverentiam ipsa significationum species obtineret, et apud nos certiora essent experimenta rerum, quam aenigmata figurarum.  Illius namque Sacerdotii anterioris habitus, nostrae mentis ornatus est, et Pontificalem gloriam non jam nobis honor commendat vestium, sed splendor animarum.  Quia et illa, quae tunc carnalibus blandiebantur obtutibus, ea potius, quae in ipsis erant, intelligenda poscebant.  Et idcirco huic famulo tuo, quem ad Sacerdotii ministerum elegisti, hanc, quaesumus, Domine, gratiam largiaris, ut quidquid illa velamina in fulgore auri, in nitore gemmarum, et in multimodi operis varietate signabant, hoc in ejus moribus actibusque clarescat. Comple in Sacerdote tuo ministerii tui summam, et ornamentis totius glorificationis instructum, coelestis unguenti rore sanctifica.

(underlining added)

In English this text reads:

It is truly worthy and just, right and profitable unto salvation that we should at all times and in all places give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father Almighty, Eternal God, honor of all dignities which serve unto Thy glory in sacred orders. To Thee O God, who, in the secret communings of familiar intercourse, giving instruction unto Moses Thy servant, concerning, among other branches of divine worship, the nature of sacerdotal vesture, didst order that Aaron, Thy chosen one, should be clad in mystic robes during the sacred functions, so that succeeding generations might be enlightened by the examples of their predecessors, lest the knowledge derived from Thy instruction should be wanting in any age. Since, indeed, with the ancients, the very appearance of symbols would obtain reverence, and with us there would be the experience of the things themselves more certain that the mysteries of figures. For the adornment of our minds fulfils what was expressed by the outward vesture of that ancient priesthood, and now brightness of souls rather than splendor of raiment commends the pontifical glory unto us. Because even those things which then were sightly unto the eyes of the flesh, demanded rather that the eyes of the spirit should understand the things they signified. And therefore we beseech Thee, O Lord, give bountifully this grace to this Thy servant, whom Thou hast chosen to the ministry of the supreme priesthood, so that what things soever those vestments signify by the refulgence of gold, the splendor of jewels, and the variety of diversified works, these may shine forth in his character and his actions. 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.

This concludes the part in which the ordination is actually conferred, and the ceremony continues with the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus, etc. This rite is found in the official ceremonial book called the Roman Pontifical, such as the 1859 edition found here (see pp. 72-74); we have taken the English translation from the ceremonial booklet of the episcopal consecration of Bp. Joseph Selway and from Sacramentum Ordinis.

Until Pope Pius XII ended all debate on the issue in 1947, there were numerous different views and opinions held by theologians over the centuries as to exactly what constitutes the matter and form of Holy Orders:

The development of the rites and ceremonies of ordination from the simple laying on of hands to the elaborate Romano-Germanic ritual made obscure the exact moment when the sacramental sign was complete. No action or precise formula of words could be singled out, as could be done, for example, in the sacrament of baptism, as the exclusive rite by which the character of Orders was imprinted. The question was, therefore, open to speculation. The opinions that developed were as varied and diverse as the rites themselves.

(Rev. Walter B. Clancy, The Rites and Ceremonies of Sacred Ordination [Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1962], p. 33; underlining added.)

We already saw that Cardinal Gasparri believed that the words Accipe Spiritum Sanctum constituted the form of the sacrament of episcopal consecration. However — and this is the part Hunwicke missed — this idea was rejected by Pope Leo XIII, shortly after Gasparri published his work:

All know that the Sacraments of the New Law, as sensible and efficient signs of invisible grace, ought both to signify the grace which they effect, and effect the grace which they signify. Although the signification ought to be found in the whole essential rite, that is to say, in the “matter and form”, it still pertains chiefly to the “form”; since the “matter” is the part which is not determined by itself, but which is determined by the “form”. And this appears still more clearly in the Sacrament of Order, the “matter” of which, in so far as we have to consider it in this case, is the imposition of hands, which, indeed, by itself signifies nothing definite, and is equally used for several Orders and for Confirmation.

But the words which until recently were commonly held by Anglicans to constitute the proper form of priestly ordination namely, “Receive the Holy Ghost” [Accipe Spiritum Sanctum], certainly do not in the least definitely express the sacred Order of Priesthood (sacerdotium) or its grace and power….

The same holds good of episcopal consecration. For to the formula, “Receive the Holy Ghost”, not only were the words “for the office and work of a bishop”, etc. added at a later period, but even these, as we shall presently state, must be understood in a sense different to that which they bear in the Catholic rite.

(Pope Leo XIII, Apostolic Letter Apostolicae Curae, nn. 24-25, 28)

Our understanding of Pope Leo’s words is confirmed by Fr. Clancy: “In the Apostolic Letter Apostolicae Curae, issued on September 13, 1896, the Roman Pontiff declared this formula alone [i.e., the words “Accipe Spiritum Sanctum”] was not sufficient to express the office and power of episcopal Orders” (Rites and Ceremonies, p. 52). And again a little later: “Pope Leo XIII explicitly ruled out the formulary Accipe Spiritum Sanctum as the form of the sacrament” (p. 73).

Thus it is the Pope himself, Leo XIII, who rains on Hunwicke’s parade, making clear that Cardinal Gasparri’s opinion that Accipe Spiritum Sanctum is the essential form and would suffice for validity, cannot be held. It’s too bad that the name of Leo XIII does not make any appearance at all in the former Anglican’s third installment on the issue of Novus Ordo episcopal consecrations.

Writing in 1920 and clearly after Pope Leo’s authoritative declaration, yet before the issuance of Pope Pius XII’s Sacramentum Ordinis, the dogmatic theologian Mgr. Joseph Pohle believed that rather than Accipe Spiritum Sanctum, “the second prayer [–the one beginning with Propitiare–], which is recited by the consecrating bishop alone, embodies the sacramental form of episcopal ordination” (The Sacraments: A Dogmatic Treatise, vol. IV, 3rd ed., p. 68). Without being more specific as to the exact time period leading up to Pius XII’s Sacramentum Ordinis, Fr. Clancy notes that the “common opinion of later canonists and theologians” was that, for episcopal consecration, “the essential rite … was generally held to be the imposition of hands by the bishop consecrator and the two assisting bishops, who with physical contact touched the head of the bishop-elect during the prayer ‘Accipe Spiritum Sanctum’, together with the extension of hands made by all three while the consectator intoned the words of the preface” (pp. 51-52; some italics added).

Thus is refuted Hunwicke’s contention that “before 1947, the communis sententia among approved manualists … saw the Form for episcopal Consecration as being three quite different words: Accipe Spiritum Sanctum“. Did the Reverend not bother to check post-1896/pre-1947 Catholic source material on the issue? That would be odd, especially since he claims that his position is vindicated “by considering the standard texts and praxis of the pre-Conciliar Church, its popes, and its great teachers.”

Whatever, then, the common opinion may have been up until the publication of Leo XIII’s bull Apostolicae Curae on Sep. 13, 1896, the Pope made clear what was henceforth to be held instead, and Pius XII confirmed it. That an opinion that Cardinal Gasparri and many others may have held at some point in the past cannot be used against the subsequent definitive and authoritative (and probably infallible) teaching on the matter by the Roman Pontiff himself, should be evident even to a former Anglican.

Hunwicke’s closing comment that his position demonstrates that “[t]he Gates of Hell have not prevailed” is a fallacious cheap shot against Sedevacantists, implying that if our position were correct and his false, then the gates of hell would have prevailed. But of course that does not follow at all, since our contention is that the 1968 rite of bishops’ ordination did not come from a true Pope and in fact definitively proves “Saint” Paul VI, who promulgated it, to have been an impostor.

To readers who are interested in further reading on this subject, we recommend, in addition to the different articles published by Fr. Cekada (found here), the work The Problems with the Other Sacraments apart from the New Mass by Rama P. Coomaraswamy.

Concluding Thoughts and a Clarification

To sum up: In his series of “Are They Really Bishops?” posts on his own Mutual Enrichment blog, “Fr.” Hunwicke overpromised and then underdelivered. But then perhaps that was his intent all along since, as he informed us in the very first paragraph of his first post, he does not take sedevacantist argumentation seriously. We could remark that that’s only fair since we, in turn, don’t take his claim to being a valid priest seriously, but this would probably a bit too much of “mutually enriching” polemics.

A note of clarification is also in order, so as to avoid needless misunderstanding or bad blood: Contrary to what some might maintain (and what the formerly Anglican blogger insinuates in his second post), our position on the invalidity of Mr. Hunwicke’s ordination has nothing to do with the fact that he is a recognize-and-resister, whereas we are Sedevacantists. This is not a matter of tit for tat, as in: “We disagree with you, so now we’re going to say you’re not really a priest!” As demonstrated in our series of responses, our objections are based entirely on sacramental theology, and our sincerity in this matter is demonstrated by the fact that there are plenty of other non-sedevacantist clergy we vehemently disagree with but the validity of whose orders we do not question in the least, for the simple reason that they were ordained by valid bishops using a valid rite.

Examples of such clergy would be most of the Lefebvrists (Society of St. Pius X), that is, those who were ordained by one of the SSPX bishops (and are not mere converts from the Novus Ordo who didn’t get re-ordained), those semi-traditionalists in the Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) who were in the SSPX when they were originally ordained, and elderly Novus Ordo clergy who received valid ordinations before the rites were changed (such as the notoriously liberal Fr. Reginald Foster, ordained in 1965, and Bp. Thomas Gumbleton, consecrated on May 1, 1968). We even acknowledge, with however much disgust and lamentation, the validity of the priesthood of Hans Küng (1954)!

In rejecting the validity of ordinations in the 1968 rite of Paul VI, Sedevacantists are by no means alone. Until 2005, the SSPX considered the new ordinations at least doubtful and therefore invalid in practice. In the United States the Lefebvrists announced a sudden about-face on the issue in December of 2005, which just so happened to be a few months after Joseph Ratzinger became “Pope” Benedict XVI. The fact that Ratzinger himself was the first Vatican II “pope” to have become a “bishop” in the Novus Ordo rite (on May 28, 1977), surely has nothing to do with the Society’s sudden change of position (wink, wink).

One SSPX bishop, however, the Most Rev. Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, to this day does not accept the validity of the Paul VI rite of Holy Orders. On June 29, 2016, Bp. Tissier stated in a public ordination sermon: “Obviously, we cannot accept this new, tampered-with ordination rite, which casts doubts on the validity of numerous ordinations [done] according to the new rite” (see “Bishop Tissier disputes Validity of Novus Ordo Ordinations” and “SSPX Bishops on Bishops and ‘Bishops’”).

Everyone would do well to ask himself why it is that the Vatican II Church has taken great care to ensure that whenever a priestly ordination is conferred in the traditional Catholic rite, the “bishop” chosen for the task is always one who was himself consecrated in the Novus Ordo rite — without exception. It’s not hard to figure out.

We understand that this is a touchy and uncomfortable subject for many, but God never promised us a comfortable life (see Lk 14:27), He only promised to assist us at all times with His grace (see Mt 11:30). We pray that all who consider themselves practicing Catholics and are dependent, in some way or another, on the 1968 rite being valid, will, with God’s grace, muster the courage to face this issue head-on. The case of Fr. Michael Oswalt — a Novus Ordo priest who converted to Sedevacantism and was subsequently re-ordained — can serve as a great inspiration.

Using the ostrich’s head-in-sand approach is disingenuous and certainly no solution. Indeed, it treats with contempt the Words of our Divine Redeemer: “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn 8:32). If we “receive not the love of truth”, we will end up among “them that perish”, having fully deserved to be punished with “the operation of error, to believe lying: that all may be judged who have not believed the truth, but have consented to iniquity” (2 Thess 2:10-11).

This concludes the series.

Image sources: sthughofcluny.org / shutterstock.com
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