29 August 2018


Towards the end of the Middle Ages, the rite of Episcopal Consecration in the Western Church had reached a fair degree of complexity. At its heart lay the ancient Consecratory Prayer of the Roman Church. Into this had been interpolated a paragraph from the Missale Francorum. Where in all this was the 'form' of the Sacrament, essential according to the scholastic analysis of sacramental efficacy, to accompany the 'matter', the Imposition of Hands?

In a later century Pope Pius XII was to lay down that one particular sentence within the original Roman Prayer was the the irreducible minimum of a 'form'. The sentence he chose was itself by no means problem-free. It does not actually mention episcopacy, and at its heart is a couple of textual cruces. It does not point with any clarity to what is essential in Episcopacy, as is shown by the fact that in the old Spanish Mozarabic Rite this same sentence appears at the centre of the rite of ordination to the presbyterate.

But in any case, rubricists of the Medieval and Counter-Reformation periods did not look to sentences in nice old prayers for Sacramental 'form'. They liked an 'imperative' form ('Receive ...') or a 'declarative' ('I baptise/absolve ...'); forms which were uttered simultaneously with the 'matter' and which had entered liturgy rather late. (If you don't know the form by which, in the early Roman Sacramentaries, Baptism was conferred, find out. You will get quite a surprise.) So the sentence Accipe Spiritum Sanctum [Receive the Holy Spirit], said as the Consecrators imposed hands on the candidate, became a very popular candidate; indeed, although by the end of the Middle Ages it had not even secured admission to all Pontificals [in England, Exeter had it but the Sarum rubrics do not mention it, although it had probably become customary] by the nineteenth century the consensus of theologians identified the same words in the then current Pontificale Romanum as the 'form' of Episcopal Consecration.

I know what you're wondering. Faced with this complexity and these questions, what deft, sensitive, 'organic' simplifications did Bugnini (the committee was actually chaired by Dom Bernard Botte) perform? Here is the answer: he dumped into his trash-can all three of the formulae I have mentioned; the authentic Old Roman Prayer (which contained the words Pius XII had declared to be the 'form'), the possibly French interpolation, and the medieval Imperative formula (which had previously been regarded as the 'form'). Into the place of all three he shipped a prayer of dubious ('Hippolytan'? No!!!) origin which had been used in the distant Christian East by groups out of communion with Rome whose Chalcedonian orthodoxy was questionable.

Yes, I thought that would make you jump out of your seat.


Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. You are a delight to read and you have a wicked sense of humor.

The Bugman's work to rid the Roman Rite and The Sacraments of the putative pests of Tradition was a malign and mendacious atrocity but it does seem to fit right in with the unofficial motto of the revolutionaries Everything is different, Nothing has changed

O, and it ought not be forgotten that he who is to be Canonised, Pope Blessed Paul VI, was intensely and intimately involved in destroying the Roman Rite and the documents pertaining to the changes have his hand-written notes on them even though attempts to propagandise differently have always claimed he was aghast or weeped at the changes etc. Balderdash!!!

Once suspects that Karl Rahner's influence was even worse than it was immense. It was he, it has been pointed out, who conceived of the idea that the sacraments merely made present in the world what already was in existence and his idea of Tradition as process rather than content was as destructive an idea as could be imagined.

It was no accident the the revolutionaries sought out advice from the Protestants in revising the Roman Rite rather than those closest to us in Tradition, Worship, and Theology because the Eastern Orthodox would have laughed at the ideas of The Bugman and his baleful brethren before they publicly assailed them for destroying Tradition and tradition.

Unknown said...

When you say, Father, "If you don't know the form by which, in the early Roman Sacramentaries, Baptism was conferred, find out. You will get quite a surprise"; are you referring to the practice of a thrice-repeated process of "question-answer-dip"?

Donna Bethell said...

Presumably Archbishop Lefebvre did not us the Bugnini form in 1988. Are there any bishops left outside the FSSPX?

Leo Bass said...

Fr Hunwicke,

Are you implying that the Novus Ordo ritual for consecrating bishops is defective or even invalid? What does that mean for your own ordination? I would sincerely like to know.

Pulex said...

Oh, Father. Reading your post I thought it is an answer to my earlier comment where I wrote that the main problem of the 1968 "form" is that its use in some Eastern rites is not specific to episcopal consecration. And now you have shown (by the Mosarabic example) that the Pius' XII form is not specific either. So I am now defeated, and my only critique against the 1968 changes remains that two wrongs do not make right.

As to the question by Rose Marie, there are 'true' bishops also of the Thuc lineage. In good canonical standing, unless there are few very old bishops, then would be only F. Areas Rifan, and that only if one of the co-consecrators (Rangel) is enough for validity.

Thomas Lackey said...

If you follow the Scholastic view of consecration not being ordination at all, but rather being brought into the full exercise of Orders which had been received in ordination to the priesthood, the idea of validity doesn't really enter into it for the rite as regards bishops.

Prayerful said...

Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani did approve the Rite of Consecration with very few amendments, which gratified its author. Yet any handiwork of Mgsr Bugnini has to be suspect. His revised or 'restored' Holy Week was a riot of junk scholarship put to the service of a sinister agenda.

Catholic State said...

I've asked some knowledgeable clerics well versed in church history and law a question and no one can answer me.
Did or do the Mozarabic and Ambrosian Rites use the pre-July 1968 Roman Rite of Holy Orders or do they use their own Holy Orders unique to specific Liturgical Rites and Traditions?

Gabriele said...

Dear Father,

did you reply to ALD Bass? Since I've had some troublesome discussions on exactly that topic (validity of the present rites of ordination of bishops) I'd also like to know. If they are not valid we don't have to worry about PF. There is no church anymore to worry about...

Fr John Hunwicke said...

If the Catholic Church, officially and solemnly, in effect declares "The words XYZ shall henceforth be deemed univocally to denote the Episcopate", then ... in all documents and rites of the Church from that point onwards ... that is what the words do mean.

It would in any case be very difficult to argue that the Prayer concerned is not a valid Form for conveying the Episcopate. This is because, for many centuries, the Church has accepted as valid the episcopate of those Oriental Churches which, for centuries, have indeed used that Prayer to consecrate bishops.