From a reader…
Would an invalidly ordained priest who became a bishop be able to validly ordain a priest? If one of Bella Dodd’s 1000+ Communist, homosexual and apostate seminarians were ordained, who rose to the rank of bishop, would any of the Sacraments they officiate at be valid and would their ordaining of a new priest be valid? I suppose it would also be possible, I suppose, for a complete apostate seminarian to falsify a birth certificate and and then receive an invalid ordination might also perpetuate priests or would be bishops from possessing valid Holy Orders. I can find nothing covering this in my searches.
This question opens up a can of worms.
First, for those who don’t know, Bella Dodd was a Communist activist who eventually entered the Catholic Church. She testified that as a Communist she worked to get committed radicals to enter seminaries in order to undermine the Church from within. Alice von Hildebrand said that Dodd told her that she knew of cardinals in the Roman Curia were working for the Communist Party. Someone else made claims along these lines. Marie Carré wrote a book called AA-1025 which is problematic, but which still describes an eerily accurate vision for destroying the Church from within.
Before the Council of Trent, some Scholastic theologians thought that the consecration of a bishop did not so much confer additional powers, but rather additional jurisdiction, namely, to ordain. In fact, though in the ancient Church some sources said that priests could not ordain, there are examples in history of non-bishops being allowed to ordain.
There was a dispute wherein some theologians held that consecration as a bishop itself conferred the fullness of priesthood, absolutely. So, any baptized male could go straight to episcopal ability to confect the Eucharist, forgive sins, confirm, and ordain. Other theologians held that consecration was not so absolute, but rather an extending of priestly power, adding the authority to ordain. That would mean that a man had to be a priest before being consecrated bishop.
I don’t have the skill or space to try to resolve that. Suffice to say that by Pius XII and his Apostolic Constitution Sacramentum ordinis the consecration of bishops is assumed to be sacramental, not just jurisdictional. Many centuries of practice of consecrating only priests as bishops suggests also a theological reality.
I suspect that there are some with greater knowledge about this issue could chime in. In the meantime, salvo meliore iudicio, I also suspect that most theologians today would say that for episcopal consecration to be valid, the man would have to be already validly ordained to the priesthood.
Of course the scenario that you bring up is pretty awful to contemplate. Were some invalid but supposed bishops to slither in to undermine the Church for various motives (e.g., infiltration by masons, communists, homosexuals) they could do a lot of damage. Think about the question, above. If the theologians who tie consecration to an extension of jurisdiction are right, then perhaps “Ecclesia supplet” might play some sort of role. If consecration confers the whole nine yards absolutely, then it wouldn’t matter.
Consider, therefore, with what great care Holy Church takes in verifying that men can be validly ordained. When I was ordained, I had to assemble some dozen documents, from an authenticated or long form birth certificate to, diplomas, letters saying that I had been made a lector and acolyte, to being admitted as a candidate for orders, to attestations of my canonically required examinations, my professions of faith and adherence to doctrine and law, and even a dimissorial letter from the bishop saying to the Cardinal Vicar of Rome that the the Pope could ordain me!
However, another sore spot in this nasty bit of business must be considered: For sacraments to be valid, there must be a proper intention to administer the sacrament. If bishop were to withhold his intention, purposely choose even while in the act of ordaining a priest or consecrating a bishop that he didn’t intend to ordain despite going through the actions, the ordination would be invalid. If the man receiving ordination made a full act of will to refuse to be ordained while being ordained, that would also result in invalid orders. In these cases, “Ecclesia supplet” wouldn’t pertain.
This, too, is one of the reasons why the Church requires that at least three bishops consecrate a new bishop. At least one of the three would not have a flaw in his own valid consecration or intention.
And another thing… no, on second thought, I should stop.