24 January 2017

Untraddy Traddies

I have written before about the frantic desire some who think of themselves as Ultra-Traditionalists have to discover 'invalidity' in the sacraments of the non-traddy part of the Church. Indeed, there are ultra-ultra-traddies who passionately seek out 'invalidity' even among plain traddies.

The last time I wrote about this, I quoted the locus classicus among traditional Catholic theologians discussing 'validity' - a passage of S Robert Bellarmine. I don't feel like repeating either the passage or my detailed explanation: you will find them both by tapping Bellarmine into the box at the top left-hand corner of the page. Here, today, is an explanation by an Englishman, the Fr Adrian Fortescue who wrote The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described, still the standard handbook for the Vetus Ordo . This is what he wrote in a book published by the Catholic Truth Society in 1908.
"People who are not theologians never seem to understand how little intention is wanted for a sacrament (the point applies equally to minister and subject). The 'implicit intention  of doing what Christ instituted' means so small and vague a thing that one can hardly help having it ... numbers of Catholics confused intention with faith. Faith is not wanted. It is heresy to say that it is (this was the error of St Cyprian and Firmalian against which Pope Stephen I, a.d. 254-7, protested). A man may have utterly wrong, heretical and blasphemous views about a sacrament, and yet confer it or receive it validly."

His powerful point is that this is an area in which one can fall into heresy. If you say that "Fr X does not have one ounce of Catholic belief about the Mass, so his Masses are obviously invalid, because he doesn't intend to do what the Church does", you are not being a rigidly firm splendidly orthodox Traditional Catholic, defending with your lifeblood the Faith of our Fathers. You are being a heretic. Well, no, not really: because you don't want to contradict the Church's established dogma about 'intention'; you are just terribly confused about what that teaching is. But what you have actually said still technically is, in Fortescue's word, 'heresy'. Seriously: the danger for us all at this time is that some of those trying to restore Tradition will erect new and untraditional home-made shibboleths of their own. This is not a help; it is an unwelcome distraction from the real problems.

I occasionally get the impression that some ultra-traddies desperately need untraddy sacraments to be invalid because they see this as essential to validate an exclusivist stance. I rather suspect that those who do this are not only lapsing into error; they are guilty of a want of charity in desiring their fellows not to be fed with true sacraments. What they would do better is to attack extreme antitraddy clergy of sacrilege: of defiling by abuse sacraments which are valid (if sacraments are not valid, then sacrilege does not exist).

The only way a daft priest can invalidate a Mass is by forming a deliberate interior intention "I'm not performing any sort of Christian rite at all; I am just play-acting"; or by not using real wheat bread and real grape wine; or by not using words which mean This is my Body, This is my Blood. There are a lot of other bad things he can do, but they are what we call "abuses" and abuses do not invalidate. They might, however, give one a thoroughly good reason for seeking out a Mass celebrated by a less daft priest.


Vidi_Aquam said...

This is fine so long as you actually have a priest (with or without faith) standing at the altar before you. The problem for more coherently-thinking ultra trads is that they regard the ordinal of Paul VI as incapable of conferring valid ordination, or they are uncertain that that rite can validly confer ordination. Either has the same effect practically as one cannot approach a doubtful sacrament. I would like to see your refutation of arguments for the invalidity of the sacraments performed in the reformed rites.

Mark said...

There is a problem with such reasoning, 'Vidi_Aquam' (a bit early, n'est ce pas? I would have chosen 'Laus tibi...').

The problem is that if one contends that the Ordinal of Paul VI is incapable of conferring valid ordination, then the Church has erred in some way (by allowing the means to create pseudo-priests). If the Church has erred, then the Holy Ghost is not doing its job. If that is the case, then Our Lord wasn't telling the truth when He said He would send the Paraclete. If He's not being sincere then, then God (who is His qualities Himself, i.e. He is not merely truthful, but is Truth itself) is a liar, and cannot be God. This is the wasteland of such a position.

It may not be pretty under the rites of Paul VI, but they cannot be invalid. To say so is to call God a liar.

[On another note, Father, I was very pleased to see your visit to Papa Stronsay, and so glad to see all had a fruitful time!]

viterbo said...

the times I've lapsed into this heresy is in a futile hope that I have no way of fulfilling my Sunday obligation at a mass that wears at my faith.
p.s. I was at a mass said by a bishop once, he said, 'this is Jesus', when usually 'this is My Body', is said - I did wonder really if that was valid.

Mark said...

Viterbo, of course *that* wasn't valid. The prescribed form wasn't present...

Joshua said...

Christ's institution of the sacraments would be of no use to us if His Church could ruin and render invalid those sacraments. The Church is indefectible: she cannot promulgate invalid rituals for the confection of the sacraments. Thus, while one may have grave reservations about the liturgical revisions, one cannot pronounce them invalid without denying the indefectibility of the Church. If, per impossibile, the modern form of the ordination rite were invalid, Benedict XVI would never have been a bishop, nor the Pope, and his ordinations would have all been invalid.

viterbo said...

thanks for the confirmation, Mark.

Mark said...

My point exactly, Joshua!

Vidi_Aquam said...

Dear Mark,

I refer you, in the first instance, to Alcuin Reid's review of Fr Cekada's book 'Work of Human Hands'. You can find that on the New Liturgical Movement blog of July 19, 2011. I also refer you Anthony Cekada's other works on the ordinal of Paul VI, easily found online. I agree with Alcuin Reid that the arguments raised by sede-vacantists/privationists cannot simply be dismissed on the the basis of them being made by the same. I also find your argument for the validity of the new rites rather circular. Yes the Church is indefectible. However If a churchman were to tell you to break a commandment of God, you would know that it was not the authentic voice of the Church speaking. As it happens I am inclined to affirm the validity of the sacraments in the new rite, along the lines argued by Fr. Gregory Hesse, but I believe the discussion is a worthy one, and was (and continue to be) interested in Fr Hunwicke's contribution.

ansgerus said...

@ Joshua
That exactly is the point. Thanks to the completely unnecessary change of the valid forms of ordination rites , especially of the form of the episcopal ordination as clearly defined by Pius XII, we are not fully sure anymore that today's rite is spending what it is suppost to spend. Unfortunately, I have not yet found a convincing argument against Cekada`s point, that the new form of the episcopal ordination is a form of the installation of a metropolitan, who IS already a bishop and thus does not need and may not get again the sacrament, and that thus this very form simply is not making a bishop. Point. It is hard to imagine with all its consequences, and very, very sad a thing, but it is well possible that due to invalid rites, the number of real bishops (and consequently also priests) in the western church is close to zero already. I strongly hope that soon a humble Pope who understands the dilemma which we are facing will have the fortune to clarify this horrible situation by asking a bishop with a unquestionably valid ordination to spend him the entire priestly sacrament in all three grades conditionally, and will then restore the former, unquestionably valid rites, so that there will be a clear and unquestionable basis again, and so that this discussion comes to an end. This has to be done soon, because valid bishops - if Cekada is right - are one of the most endangered species in the world.

Joshua said...

Dear Ansgerus,

That way lies madness.

If what you claim is true, then the Church's indefectibility is a load of rubbish - in which case the Catholic Church is not the true Church.

But surely as a Catholic you believe the Church to be the true Church, and indefectible? If so, you cannot believe the sacraments of the Church to be invalid, whatever Fr Cekada, unfortunately fallen into sedevacantism, may claim. Believe the Church, not those who, doubtlessly from the best motives, argue against her.

This modern ultra-traditionalist fear that Pope Paul VI promulgated doubtfully valid sacraments seems to me analogous to Donatism - not, as the Donatists did, requiring holiness of the ministers, but rather requiring a very particular wording of the sacramental formulæ.

There are many extant and many extinct rites throughout the Church, and too many traditionalist criticisms betray a narrow focus on the Roman rite to the exclusion of all the others.

We must believe that when Christ's Vicar specified the sacramental formulæ, those he promulgated must be valid ipso facto - I would go so far as to say that such is an exercise of Papal infallibility, since faith and morals fall to the ground if we cannot be sure if sacraments are valid or not.

What do you mean by "spend"?

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Even if sedevacantists are right, validly consecrated bishops are not at all an endangered species. There are thousands around, and they are called Orthodox. Indeed, if the Roman See is now permanently vacant, Orthodoxy and sedevacantism amount, practically, to the same thing.

If you believe that the pope is the pope, then the fact that he says that something is the Form of the Sacrament of Order constitures it as having that meaning. Just as in a British statute, the preamble stating what the terms used in the Act mean constitutes their meaning.

If you are a sedevacantist, then this does not apply. And you might indeed like to follow Fr Ceckada's opinion.

There could, in fact, be two quite opposite ways of being sedevacantist: you don't think the pope is pope, and therefore you don't accept what he decrees as constituting the meaning of the Sacramental Form; or you don't accept the validity of current orders, and therefore you think Christ has abandoned his Church and you are sedevacantist. It matters that you should know which you are, if you value lucid thought.

I shall not enable any further comments on this subject because I am not willing for my blog to become a forum for sedevacantist discussion.

wywialm said...

Thank you for reminding that Catholic teaching, Fr Hunkwicke.

How does this extend? Does this extend to Eucharist as practiced by some "evangelical christians" as only sharing the bread and wine? They certainly have the intention to do what Christ did, though they are certainly validly ordained priests.

austin said...

It is humbling to note how little the Catholic tradition requires in terms of sacramental action for one to be assured of the outpouring of divine grace. Could the same logic possibly extend even to the troubled sacrament of matrimony?

Our present Holy Father has repeatedly asserted that a large proportion of marriages are invalid because of deficiency of intent. The implication appears to be that the only truly sacramentally valid unions are those in which the consenting partners are sound in theology, sincere and fervent in their piety, and mature enough to comprehend the implications of a life-long union.

It has occurred to me, with regard to the Holy Father's line of thought, that my own marriage is distinctly suspect. When it was contracted, I was not only an Anglican (and so theologically destitute), I was also notably deficient in personal sanctity. And, foolishly, I had neglected to have children, undergo the process of aging rather poorly, and suffer the slings and arrows of unsatisfactory employment, dismissal, an onerous mortgage, and wide exposure to the generally tiresome and depraved nature of most of the human race.

Under these mitigating circumstances, my conscience informs me that God would benignly countenance my divorcing the wife, taking up with something more nubile and toothsome, and presenting myself for Holy Communion direct from the registry office.

Distressingly, our Ordinary in the United States has precluded this course of action by insisting on the permanent nature of a plighted troth. Can such an arbitrary exercise of authority stand against a truly grounded sense of the human experience, informed by true discrimination, accompaniment, and sound sheep-rearing principles?

The wisdom of the Mediterranean would argue not. Ask any grizzled Maltese. Or indeed, Cretan.

Athelstane said...

Vidi Aquam,

Correct me if I am mistaken. but I though the late Fr. Hesse's stance was that the new ordinal was of doubtful validity under some of the translations then in use. Something a little short of an absolutist position.

vetusta ecclesia said...

Whatever happened to "ecclesia supplet"?