QUAERITUR: Are priests, bishops ordained after 1969 validly ordained?

From a reader:

I realize this must be a sensitive topic for anyone especially a priest ordained after 1969 but please know we are just seeking an objective answer. We have done our "homework" on this but who can we ask? There are very few places where we would actually get a straight answer.

Plainly asked are priests and bishops ordained after 1969 valid priests and bishops?

I have included a few links for you but don’t want to overwhelm you either. The formal answer of the Church today must be that they are priests and bishops because the form according to Pope Paul VI is still used and not the form according to Pope Pius XII.

We just came across documents and information this last weekend August 8th 2010 and before getting crazy thought we would email a few priests we know as well as you because we value your opinion on Catholic issues. Our faith is the most important part of our lives, please do not be mistaken – we are not kooks – but we would like an objective answer not skewed one way or the other because of a priests background. we could ask the SSPX priests all day and know their answer already but would like to hear this from someone we trust.

Plainly answered, YES, those ordained in the normal way with the post-Conciliar rites of ordination are validly ordained.

People who say they aren’t are deeply confused and dead wrong.

For a good book which criticizes the post-Conciliar rite of ordination, but comes down on the correct side when he gets to the bottom line, look at Michael Davies book Order of Melchisedech: Defence of the Catholic Priesthood.

The general line of the book is that the ordination rites after the Council were compromised because they did not adequately express explicitly what the Church says a priest is and what a priest does.   What saves the rite is the knowledge the bishop has of what the rite means.   Davies says that were the bishop to have an insufficient understanding of the Church’s teaching on priesthood, then there would be trouble.   But we are not to that point.  

Furthermore, the book of the rites of ordination was redone by Pope John Paul II in 1990. He put back into the rite some explicit language which helps to clarify what is being done.

In any event, a Pope is not going to promulgate and then use an invalid rite of ordinations of priests and bishops.

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  1. paulbailes says:

    Dear Father

    Re “a Pope is not going to promulgate and then use an invalid rite of ordinations of priests and bishops”, may I respectfully enquire why you are able to make such a confident assertion?

    More generally, we know that Popes can do some bad things; at the same we know that there are some bad things that Popes cannot do (i.e. make untrue pronouncements protected by the guarantee of infallibility). It sounds as if you contend that promulgations of sacramental rites are infallible? If that is your contention, may I then ask how the criterion of universality (needed as I understand for an infallible pronouncement) applies in this case, as the new ordination rite (as I understand) applied only to the Latin church?

    Thanks in advance for your kind consideration, and for your patience with me.

    God bless

  2. Father G says:

    I have a long time friend who attends Mass at an SSPX parish, and hasn’t been to a Mass in the Ordinary Form in years. That changed when he attended my ordination a year ago. He found it moving and beautiful, but that has been the only OF Mass he has attended since. Although he oftens refers to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass as the “True Mass”, he has not questioned the validity of my ordination.

    My friend had planned to attend another ordination in the Ordinary Form, but was talked out of it by a SSPX priest. The issue was not about validity of the ordination, but more about the Ordinary Form Mass itself.

  3. Paul,

    At some point we have to pre-suppose wisdom, sincerity & good intention on the part of the Pope – in this case, Pope John Paul II.

    And more significantly, we trust in our Lord’s promise that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church. The Holy Spirit guides & protects the Church, and by extension, Her Pope.

  4. Jordanes says:

    Because the Church is indefectible, Mr. Bailes. (You’re thinking of doctrinal infallibility, when you need to be thinking of indefectibility.) If she ever lost the Sacraments, that means the gates of hell would prevail — she would not be indefectible. She cannot be God’s instrument of salvation if she does not have the Sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist — and she can’t have the Holy Eucharist without validly ordained bishops and priests.

    The bull Auctorem fidei classifies as “at least erroneous” the notion “that the Church could establish discipline which would be dangerous, harmful, and conducive to superstition and materialism.” The Church has been deprived of the ability of instituting invalid sacramental rites, which means the Pope does not have the ability to do that either.

  5. TC says:

    Perhaps a naive question here: wouldn’t the Holy Spirit necessarily protect the Church from having invalid consecration of Bishops (at the very least), no matter how liturgically or theologically — sloppy the rite? Without Bishops the Apostolic Succession goes away. Not, of course, that we should test God’ patience.

    “The general line of the book is that the ordination rites after the Council were compromised because they did not adequately express explicitly what the Church says a priest is and what a priest does. What saves the rite is the knowledge the bishop has of what the rite means. Davies says that were the bishop to have an insufficient understanding of the Church’s teaching on priesthood, then there would be trouble. But we are not to that point.”

    My understanding as to Holy Communion is that even a priest who doubts the Real Presence can confect the Eucharist so long as he follows the rite and _generally_ intends what the Church intends.

    So how shaky would a Bishop’s beliefs about the priesthood and episcopacy have to be before “there would be trouble”?

  6. The reasons why the new rite of ordination is valid seem to me to apply also to the validity of the Novus Ordo Mass. God may permit the liturgy to be distorted and watered down (and I am on record with my theory that this was to expose the rot and corruption that lay hidden beneath the beauty of the old rite), but He would not — and did not — permit the Church to be entirely deprived of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

  7. JP Borberg says:

    I’d like to correct the folks that asked the question on one little point:

    They said “we could ask the SSPX priests all day and know their answer already but would like to hear this from someone we trust”.

    The implication here (as I read it) is that ‘SSPX priests’ would claim the new rites are invalid. But they don’t. If the OP’s DID know the answers of ‘SSPX priests’ (note the plural), they would have found out that the SSPX’s position is that the new rite of ordination is valid. That’s why the SSPX let priests ordained in the new rite join the society without being reordained. A fact much lamented on sadevacantist websites.

    Why do I raise this point? A lot of people think the SSPX are wide-eyed fanatics/stick-whittling hillbillies/invaders from Mars/some other derogatory generalisation. Sure, the do some stupid things, they also do some good things. Let’s not go perpetuating rumours about people who are trying to achieve the same end as you.

  8. Prof. Basto says:

    The Holy Spirit would protect the Church’s supreme authority from promulgating a rite that was not sufficient to render the Sacrament valid.

    And, while it is correct that the Pauline ordination rite of 1969 was problematic and borderline sufficient, the Pauline rite is no longer used in its original form, given that a renewed ordo was published in 1990. So today the ordinary form contains a Johanno-Pauline rite of ordination that is much better compared to Paul VI’s version.


    Also, we need to bear in mind that today, refusal to recognize the validity of the 1969 rite would logically amount to Sedevacantism, since Father Joseph Ratzinger was ordained a Bishop in 1977, with the 1969 Books in use.

    Before 1975, a non-Bishop elected Pope was required to be consecrateda Bishop immediately but the electoral laws in force at the time considered that the elect acquired immediate powers over the Church from the moment of acceptance even before receiving Episcopal consecration.

    Cardinal Mauro Cappellari, OSB (Pope Gregory XVI), for instance, was elected Pope on February 2, 1831 and he was not yet a Bishop. He accepted the election, and he at once was considered Pope according to the Canon Law then in force; he at once discharged papal authority. He chose his regnal name, received the homage of the Cardinals and his election was immediately announced to the public with the “Habemus Papam” formula. He imparted the Apostolic Blessing. All that on February 2nd. On February 6th, Cardinal Bartolomeo Pacca, Bishop of Ostia and Velletri, Dean of the Sacred College, assisted by two other Cardinal Bishops, presided over the Pope’s Episcopal Consecration at the Vatican Basilica (the Pope concelebrated as recipients of Episcopal consecration do even in the extraordinary, and then only, form of the roman rite). The Mass included both the Episcopal Consecration and the rites of the Coronation, and it ended with the Pope being crowned by the Cardinal Protodeacon in the balcony of St. Peter’s. But he was Pope from February 2nd, not from February 6th.

    Since 1975, however (when Romano Pontifice eligendo was promulgated) the norms of election require Episcopal consecration before a Pope-elect becomes Pope and before he acquires any authority over the Church. Thus, under the current norms, if the Pope is already Bishop, that is ok, he becomes Pope upon accepting the election and is free to discharge the petrine Ministry from that moment. But, under the post-1975 norms, if the elected person is not yet a Bishop, then not only is he to be immediately ordained a Bishop, but also no announcement is made of the election, and no homage is due to the elect who is not yet Pope, but Pope-elect, until the episcopal consecration is accomplished.

    Thus, the conjugation of the post-1975 electoral laws with the absurd assertion that the 1969 ordination rites were not valid would lead one to the conclusion that Father Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope, but was not yet a Bishop, and thus not yet a Pope. And voilà, we have reached a Sedevacantist stance.

    Of course, the assertion that the 1969 rites were not sufficient for validity of the Sacrament is preposterous, as it would imply that Christ – who promised to protect the Church from the Gates of Hell – would allow the Supreme Authority of the Church to promulgate invalid rites for the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the Sacrament by means of which the Apostolic Succession is perpetuated and priests are provided for the confection of the Eucharist.

  9. JP Borberg says:

    Here’s a link to one of ‘the SSPX priests’ who answers the question in much less than a day. Check points five and seven and the conclusion. Apparently the SSPX aren’t sedevacantist after all.

  10. TJerome says:

    Look, I despise the modern liturgy, but not withstanding that, I believe the modern rites, though deficient in many ways, are valid.

  11. Oneros says:

    “In any event, a Pope is not going to promulgate and then use an invalid rite of ordinations of priests and bishops.”

    Paul Bailes is technically correct.

    Don’t get me wrong, I believe the modern rites are valid, and I can’t imagine God ever allowing something like that ever to happen on such a wide scale…but I don’t think this strictly speaking necessarily true merely from dogma.

    It seems to be an argument from the Pope’s infallibility or from the Church’s indefectability, but the forms of merely one Rite of the Church are not universal promulgations ex cathedra. Going back to the other conversation on here recently, the Pope promulgates Latin Rite sacraments merely as Patriarch of the Latin Rite…not AS Pope. They are not Universal as they don’t apply to the Eastern Churches. Theoretically they could be invalid.

    We know, for example, that Popes in the Middle Ages gave faulty permission for abbots who were not bishops to “ordain” their monks to the presbyterate. Obviously invalid.

    Furthermore, we know that the Council of Florence, in addressing the reuniting Armenians…required that they add the translation of instruments to their ordination rite, as they thought it was invalid otherwise. We now know that the translation of instruments is not, in fact, an essential part of the ordination ritual…but the principle nevertheless suggests that the council believed that even an entire Rite in the church could be invalid.

    Infallibility/indefectability only applies to the Church Universal. It does not, strictly speaking, apply to individual local churches. Remember the Baptism With Beer controversy in some German dioceses in medieval times; individual churches HAVE definitely promulgated harmful, erroneous, and invalid disciplines in the past. It is only the Church Universal to which such indefectability applies. But the Latin Rite is, in the end, merely 1 out of 22 sui juris churches.

    Like I said, I think the modern sacraments are, by and large, valid…but, for example, I have serious doubts about the validity of Paul VI’s (thankfully little-used) permission for the use of non-olive “oils” in the sacraments, and the CDF’s approval of the “Anaphora of Addai and Mari” without Institution Narrative/Words of Consecration among the Assyrian Church of the East. But doubt about either of those things doesn’t touch infallibility or indefectability, as they are specific contingent cases, not universal teachings.

  12. muckemdanno says:

    Good post JP Borberg.

    There has been too much protest against SSPX as crazy people. Abp Lefebvre acknowledged that the rites themselves (for Ordination and Mass) are valid, but that some of the sacraments ceratinly are invalid due to defective intention on the part of the ministers. For example, if the bishop does not believe in the sacrificial nature of the priesthood, then the ordination he confers cannot be valid.

    For this reason, the Church has rejected the idea that Anglican ordinations are valid. Anglicans do not accept the sacrificial nature of the priesthood or of the mass.

  13. Fr. Basil says:

    \\In any event, a Pope is not going to promulgate and then use an invalid rite of ordinations of priests and bishops.\\

    This is basically what I was going to say, but let me expand upon it.

    The Church by her very nature, and especially by her quality of indefectability, cannot promulgate invalid rites. If a rite for anything is duly promulgated and allowed by the Church, it is by that fact valid and efficacious.

    I would also say that, at least in the context of the Catholic and Orthodox and Non-Chalcedonian Churches, lack of intention on the part of the minister would be very hard to prove by another.

    If, for example, an ordaining bishop vests properly for an Ordination Mass, celebrates it, and ordains according to an authorized rite of the Church, performing all the ceremonial actions correctly, and saying the prayers properly, intention is presumed.

    There would be an almost insurmountable burden of proof on someone else to demonstrate the prelate was deliberately withholding intention, or had a defective one.

  14. Oneros says:

    “If a rite for anything is duly promulgated and allowed by the Church, it is by that fact valid and efficacious.”

    Except as far as I know, rites aren’t promulgated by “the Church”…they’re promulgated by individual local churches. And individual churches HAVE definitely promulgated invalid rites in the past. Again, I think the modern rites are perfectly valid, but it isn’t AS impossible as situation as some seem to imagine.

  15. Fr. Basil says:

    \\Furthermore, we know that the Council of Florence, in addressing the reuniting Armenians…required that they add the translation of instruments to their ordination rite, as they thought it was invalid otherwise. We now know that the translation of instruments is not, in fact, an essential part of the ordination ritual…but the principle nevertheless suggests that the council believed that even an entire Rite in the church could be invalid.\\

    Rather odd, as there is no traditio instrumentorm in the Byzantine ordination rites (though the Ukrainians borrowed it), and nobody has questioned them.

    Furthermore, during his reign, Pope Pius XII investigated this issue, and declared that the major orders in the Latin Church are conferred not by the tradition instrumentorum (the most popular opinion at the time) but by the imposition of the ordaining bishop’s hands.

  16. Hilleyb says:

    Well, the laying on of hands, which confers the sacrament, is exactly identical in both forms. Even supposing the rite of Mass the ordination took place in was invalid, it doesn’t seem credible to me that it would have any bearing on the Sacrament of Holy Orders contained within. I think the only thing that could be argued for invalidity would be regarding the priestly faculties of the ordaining bishop, i.e., excommunication from the so-called “true Church.”

    The “rite of baptism” or penance services don’t need to be done for a valid emergency Baptism or brief confession. Perhaps I misunderstand one thing. Does the form, matter and intention of Holy Orders necessarily require that it takes place within a Mass? Prof. Basto’s comments above bring up a potential situation regarding this question.

    Arguments aside, I too believe that the modern rites are valid.

  17. Gulielmus says:

    JP Borberg,

    The link you offered in defense of the SSPX’s attitude toward the vailidity of post 1968 ordinations contains the following–

    “Given the gravity of these issues, it is not even a slight doubt that is acceptable. Just as the superiors take seriously their duty of guaranteeing the moral certitude of the Holy Orders of their priests, whether by means of conditional re-ordination or careful investigation (when possible), so also must priests who join the Society accept conditional ordination in case of even slight positive doubt… For regardless of the technical question of the validity of a priest’s Holy Orders, we all recognize the Catholic sense that tells us that there can be no mixing of the illegitimate new rites with the traditional Catholic rites, a principle so simply elucidated by Archbishop Lefebvre on June 29, 1976: “We are not of this religion. We do not accept this new religion. We are of the religion of all time, of the Catholic religion. We are not of that universal religion, as they call it today. It is no longer the Catholic religion. We are not of that liberal, modernist religion that has its worship, its priests, its faith, its catechisms, its Bible….”

    This is rather more extreme a position than you represent it as.

  18. Joshua08 says:


    Rather it is rather less extreme that you are spinning it. First, nice use of … . That changes the sense of what comes after. Second, this follows a defense of a “tutorist” position on the sacraments. One cannot rely on probable or even most probable opinion. If there is ANY doubt whatosever, then conditional ordination (or baptism, or confirmation) should be given.

    All the priest is saying, if one reads him honestly rather than trying to malign him, is that there must be moral certitude about the validity of orders, and when there is doubt (not always, but when) there needs to be conditional ordination. Well no duh! Any Catholic knows that or should

    The question is how common is the need to do this. Considering how many people I know who were not even validly baptised, or had doubtful baptism and then were received into the Church without conditional baptism, it is a valid concern, even if it remains a minority. The point is that in something this important certitude is necessary.

    Now Fr. Scott is of the more “radical wing” But still, rather than twisting what he said, you should have quoted him honestly

    “Consequently we cannot question the validity of a sacrament such as Holy Orders without having a positive reason to do so, namely a reason to believe that there might be some defect of one of the three elements necessary for validity – matter, form, and intention.”

    So he is specifically excluding wild speculation. Only positive reason establishing a doubt is allowed.

    Further he states

    “The matter and the form of the Latin rite of priestly ordination introduced by Paul VI in 1968 are not subject to positive doubt. They are, in effect, practically identical to those defined by Pope Pius XII in 1947 in Sacramentum ordinis.”

    Hmm…seems okay. He does question the translation, but makes no judgment himself on the matter (he wrote an article in the Si Si..No No a few years back defending the validity even with the ICEL translation if any one cares)

    “There can be reasons to doubt the intention of the ordaining Bishop in the conciliar church. The minister of the sacrament does not have to intend what the Church intends, which is why a heretic can administer a valid sacrament. He must, however, intend to do what the Church does.”

    So he is not saying, as many amateur theologians wrongly think, that error or heresy on the minister’s part is material. A priest can believe that the bread remains bread and is only symbolic, it is still a valid Mass presumably.

    He goes on to say that the rite was revised in such a way as to allow an adverse (and hence invalidating intention) though a bishop who intends to do as the Church does validly ordains. Note this problem in the rite was at least partially remedied by John Paul II, who restored some of the language about, you know, what a priest actually is, from the neutered Paul VI version

    And fuller context for your quote

    “In conclusion, it is our duty to avoid the excess of sedevacantism, denying unreasonably the very validity and existence of the post-conciliar church, and its priesthood. However, we must likewise reject the laxist and liberal approach that does not take seriously the real doubts that can arise, failing to consider the enormous importance and necessity of a certainly valid priesthood for the good of the Church, for the eternal salvation of souls, and for the tranquility of the conscience of the faithful. Given the gravity of these issues, it is not even a slight doubt that is acceptable. Just as the superiors take seriously their duty of guaranteeing the moral certitude of the Holy Orders of their priests, whether by means of conditional re-ordination or careful investigation (when possible), so also must priests who join the Society accept conditional ordination in case of even slight positive doubt, and so also must the faithful recognize that each case is different and accept the decision of those who alone are in a position to perform the necessary investigations.”

    There are issues with this text, viz. calling the new rite illicit, etc. But the principles are correct even if the presumption of facts are exagerrated

  19. JP Borberg says:

    Thanks Joshua, you saved me a lot of time constructing an argument, and delivered it with more grace than I would have. Cheers.

  20. chironomo says:

    Davies says that were the bishop to have an insufficient understanding of the Church’s teaching on priesthood, then there would be trouble

    Hmmm… since Bishops are individuals and not a collective group, that is, a priest is ordained by a Bishop, not by the Bishops, then is there not the possibility that there are Bishops who do not have a sufficient understanding of the Church’s teachings on the Priesthood, and as such, trouble? I think all of us have heard particular Bishops speak in such a way that one would think they have less than a full understanding of the Church’s teachings on a variety of topics, so why would the nature of the Priesthood be an exception?

  21. Oneros says:


    As Joshua says, unbelief on the part of the minister is immaterial to the question of Intent. He merely has to “intend to do what the Church does”…this is very different than “intending to do what the Church intends to do.”

    As long as he identifies his action as being the same type of action the Church does in preforming that ritual (whatever his personal beliefs about said action) and doesn’t explicitly will the sacrament NOT to be valid (and only a person who believed it could be would do that).

    This is addressed in the Summa:

    “if his faith be defective in regard to the very sacrament that he confers, although he believe that no inward effect is caused by the thing done outwardly, yet he does know that the Catholic Church intends to confer a sacrament by that which is outwardly done. Wherefore, his unbelief notwithstanding, he can intend to do what the Church does, albeit he esteem it to be nothing. And such an intention suffices for a sacrament”

    He may “esteem it to be nothing”…but he knows that it is an action which the Church does, and he’s intending to do that same action (even if he believes said action does nothing)

  22. roamincatholic says:

    This all rather confuses me. I mean, I follow the theology, but the implications are rather disturbing.

    So the SSPX recognize Benedict as Pope. They, however, in recognizing him as Universal Pontiff, don’t recognize some of the things his office (including predecessors) have promoted with regards to the Roman Rite…?

    So do the SSPX consider themselves to be carrying on the tradition of the Roman Rite, whereas the Mass of Paul VI is valid, but illicit? Sort of like the double excommunication of Rome and Constantinople?

    On the same blog, there is an answer by the same priest on “Can there be two forms of the same rite?” http://ecclesia-militans.blogspot.com/2007/10/fr-peter-scott-answers.html

    This is so confusing. No wonder people mistake SSPX for sedevacantists

  23. Guglielmus says:

    CLARIFICATION: The SSPX does not say that those ordained or consecrated after 1969 are invalid. An entire issue of the Angelus, their official monthly magazine, was dedicated to this question. There conclusion is in the affirmative. You should look up this issue of the Angelus. It is excellent.

  24. Gulielmus says:

    I note that someone has joined us with a very similar screen name to mine– and issued a “clarification” of an issue I raised. Hmmm.

    At all events Joshua08, the use of ellipsis in the cited text is hardly “spin,” when what was elided is a more extreme position– the suggestion that the SSPX has the authority to judge the validity of ordination of other priests at all.

    The fact is that JP Borberg cited the essay as proof that the SSPX does not question “Novus Ordo” ordinations, when what it shows is that it doesn’t always question them. Very different. And more extreme than he presented it as.

    As for GuGlielmus’ citation of the Angelus, I do not have access to that publication at the moment so I leave to others to comment on its content.

  25. Jordanes says:

    Oneros said: Furthermore, we know that the Council of Florence, in addressing the reuniting Armenians…required that they add the translation of instruments to their ordination rite, as they thought it was invalid otherwise. We now know that the translation of instruments is not, in fact, an essential part of the ordination ritual…but the principle nevertheless suggests that the council believed that even an entire Rite in the church could be invalid.

    Your logic is faulty. First of all, even if they believed the Armenian ordination rite was invalid, they were dealing with the rite of a schismatic church, not a rite “in” the Church. Secondly, we know that the Church has never judged that the Armenians, even when schismatic, had lost apostolic succession. On this matter, you should probably re-read Pius XII’s “Sacramentum Ordinis.”

    I repeat, the bull Auctorem fidei classifies as “at least erroneous” the notion “that the Church could establish discipline which would be dangerous, harmful, and conducive to superstition and materialism.” The Church has been deprived of the ability of instituting invalid sacramental rites, which means the Pope does not have the ability to do that either. What schismatic churches have done, or what individual priests or bishops have at times done, do not constitute the Church authoritatively instituting a sacramental rite.

  26. I am aware of a young priest, ordained in the last five years or so, who has been convinced that his ordination in the Ordinary Form, New Rite, whatever you want to call it, is in fact, invalid. And he has or is going through another training to be “re-ordained” according to (I’m not sure if it is the 1962 Rite of Ordination or one earlier)
    Even though he was ordained by one of the most faithful, orthodox bishops in the country.
    For whatever reason, this poor priest has been “duped” by these fallacious arguments about invalidity, that in my own mind, are based upon false assertions and if you will, something that is more “psychiatric” then spiritual.
    Of course, the Lord is not going to permit invalid ordinations of priests globally, universally.
    You can argue about the suitability of what a particular Rite may say or signify externally.
    But how can we even contemplate that the majority of priests and bishops are invalidly ordained, apart from the individual circumstances where form and matter are definitely not present? And even that is almost impossible to prove, unless a woman is the candidate, or the bishop leaves out or changes necessary parts of the Rite?
    And those necessary parts are, indeed, part of the New Rite of Ordination.

  27. JP Borberg says:


    The OP asked if the new rites of ordination were invalid. They implied the SSPX don’t hold they are invalid. If the SSPX held this view, they would be sedevacantist. The SSPX do not hold this view, and they are not sedevacantist. That was the extent of my point.

    According to the article I linked to, the SSPX hold that even though the new rite of ordination is valid when done by the book, some ordinations are invalid because the ministers of the sacrament changed the form or had the wrong intention. Do you disagree that some priests do invalidate the sacraments in the new rites? Before you answer, look back at this blog and see the entries asking ‘was this consecration valid?’ or ‘was this absolution valid’. K? K.

    The SSPX know this happens. To avoid scandalising the faithful the SSPX want to be sure their priests are validly ordained, so they check.

    Why do you think this is extreme?

  28. JP Borberg says:

    Sorry, I was a bit rushed with that last comment, and need to make two corrections:

    1) The second sentence should read “They implied the SSPX don’t hold they are VALID”.

    2) The question at the end should have been “Why do you think this is more extreme than ‘what I represented to you’?”

    Oh, and Gulielmus, re-reading your second post concerning what I said, I think I need to make explicit a not to subtle distinction you seem to have missed: The SSPX does not dispute the validity of the new rite of ordination. That is what the OP implied they did, and that is the point I was addressing in my posts. What they question (and check) is whether the new rite was actually followed in each instance. That is something very different from the issues raised in the OP, and very quite distinct from the point I was trying to make.

    Whether or not the SSPX should do this is a very interesting topic. However, I currently lack the time to be dragged into it. Thanks.

  29. paulbailes says:

    Thanks to those who kindly replied to my concerns, especially Oneros.

    The point I am making (and which I understand Oneros supports) is to refute the argument that because of the Church’s indefectibility, the new ordination rite could not possibly be invalid. The refutation is that because the new rite applies only to part of the Church, its invalidity would not represent the end of the priesthood.

    Similar arguments apply to the NOM … it could conceivably be invalid, while the other rites continue to provide the mass.

    FWIW, I accept that the new ordination rite and the NOM are valid (but “problematic”, so much so in the case of the NOM that I decline to attend). Some disagree with this (non-attendance at the NOM) using the indefectibility argument (eg “how could the Church promulgate a rite that could be harmful to souls), but as per the foregoing it’s debatable if indefectibility applies to a matter that’s not applicable to the universal Church. Which of course was the basis for my interest in this question.

    God bless

  30. paulbailes: harmful to souls

    There is a difference between saying that the rite of a sacrament might be unedifying, even to the point of being “harmful to souls” (which is a pretty loose idea) and the rite of a sacrament being invalid.

  31. Fr Jackson says:

    Wow. I was really surprised to see that the original question just took for granted that the SSPX priests would say that the new rite of ordination was invalid. Gosh, if only they knew how much time we spend fighting against such theses, at least here… (a wink to those who know). Thanks for jumping in there JP.

  32. Henry Edwards says:

    paulbailes: Some disagree with this (non-attendance at the NOM) using the indefectibility argument (eg “how could the Church promulgate a rite that could be harmful to souls)

    It may have been a common belief of pre-Vatican II Catholics that “indefectibility of the Church” meant it could never act officially in a way harmful to souls. However I don’t see this interpretation in definitions such as that quoted below from the Catholic Encyclopedia.

    In any event, some would argue that the Novus Ordo and or the way it was implemented has so clearly resulted to harm to vast numbers of souls that ordinary folks now need a more nuanced understanding of indefectibility now.

    Indefectibility of the Church
    Among the prerogatives conferred on His Church by Christ is the gift of indefectibility. By this term is signified, not merely that the Church will persist to the end of time, but further, that it will preserve unimpaired its essential characteristics. The Church can never undergo any constitutional change which will make it, as a social organism, something different from what it was originally. It can never become corrupt in faith or in morals; nor can it ever lose the Apostolic hierarchy, or the sacraments through which Christ communicates grace to men. The gift of indefectibility is expressly promised to the Church by Christ, in the words in which He declares that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. …..

  33. Fr_Sotelo says:

    The original poster worried that the question of valid orders might be “sensitive” for those of us ordained after 1969. I had to chuckle at that, as theological questions are merely that: questions. If a priest or bishop were to allow questions such as these to cause him to doubt the validity of his ordination, it would merely expose a deficiency in his faith and a certain shallow area of his theological training. It is akin to a person who questions out loud whether there is any oxygen or nitrogen in the atmosphere and worries that you will go into respiratory distress and feel yourself unable to breathe. If you do, it does not mean there is no oxygen around–only that you have poor knowledge of science coupled with severe hypochondria.

    What is more sensitive for me is the traditionalist explanation of sacramental validity which skirts close to a “voodoo” understanding of the sacraments. It is too easy to present minute dissections of what matter, form, intention, and proper minister are and then to get people to think that the minutiae are either historical, theological, or authentically part of Catholic Tradition. Superstitious and magical ritual, a form of which is voodoo, is obsessive compulsive about incantation and gesture which if not done just so, exactly, will not command the divine and bring about the desired goals of witchcraft.

  34. Fr_Sotelo says:

    My post continued.

    Catholic sacramental theology could not present a more different picture of how the Good Shepherd intended to care and indeed does care for his flock through the sacraments. Authentic Catholic theology takes from Scripture first in order to see the will and intention of Christ for His Church. Our sacramental theology, first and foremost, locates the validity of the sacraments in the merits of the Passion of our Savior, and not in our human abilities, words, and gestures. A Catholic assumes that the rule, not the exception, is that sacramental grace flows freely and unhindered in the economy of grace because…this is what our Lord willed and what is clearly manifested in all the teachings of the Gospel.

    I don’t discount any teachings of the Fathers, Doctors or great theologians. But the example of our greatest teachers, including Aquinas, is that they go to Scripture first and seek out understanding from the words of Our Lord Himself. Where does the power of the sacraments come from, and their validity, if we study the Gospels?

    The cause of sacramental grace is the Incarnate Son of God who wills to confer the Holy Spirit on souls and is present in space and time through the Pope and bishops. Because of that divine authority of the apostolic college, head and members, the promise of Christ remains real and operative for every generation of the faithful of Christ. To put it simply, the Lamb of God did not undergo such a bitter Passion because he was curious to know how it felt to bleed and suffocate to death. He had no intention that all the work of redemption, and the souls given to Him by His Father, would be at the mercy of human judgment and error, of human caprice. The Son of God conquers, in the economy of grace, within His Church, by means of the sacraments.

    Jesus said, “if you do not believe me, than have faith in the works I do.” If we look at the spiritual lives of Catholics throughout the world after 1969, you see an active sacramental life, even taking into account those who do not practice their faith and those who practice it poorly. The reality of the global Church is not the reality of a Church of dead sacraments. It is certainly not the reality of a worldwide episcopate and clergy who are impotent to confer grace. If you told very devout Catholics in the post-Vatican II era that they have not received grace for 40 years, they will simply laugh in your face–as they should. It would be like telling someone who is alive that they have not breathed for 40 years.

    Okay, so that is preliminary and essential. God’s Son came down to earth to merit grace and mercy and He willed that the Apostolic college would efficaciously oversee the economy of this grace in the Church. The Apostolic college receives a divine promise that power and authority would perpetually reside in them. This power and authority is not for their personal glory, so that they will dress up in fancy clothes and impress people with titles. This power and authority is primarily for the sacraments. This power and authority is promised and they actually have no choice in the matter. God will see to it and sees to it that this power and authority effectively confers valid sacraments.

    The Church has always dealt with bishops and priests who do not know what they are doing, but that does not stop God from conferring valid sacraments. Where there is a concern, we leave it to the Holy See to give us the heads up if certain sacraments have been conferred invalidly. In the administration of the sacraments, the Council of Trent dogmatically defined that the Church determines all that is necessary for the proper determination of how sacraments are celebrated.

    If we wish to confuse the questions and muddy the waters, we can talk about this ritual, those words, such and such translation, that gesture, what part of the Church receives such and such promulgation, etc. It is all fun, I guess. Highly speculative also. But to borrow from Pope Leo XIII, who pronounced Anglican Orders absolutely null and utterly void, any speculation, opinion, decision, outlook, or theological treatise which does not originate from the Roman Pontiff is merely an opinion which has no effect on what the Pope has already decided. If the Roman Pontiff promulgates a Mass, a ritual of Ordination, a new way of conferring Confirmation, and I deem it unacceptable, that is a problem that exists in my brain, in my head, in my psyche, but it is not a problem for the validity of the sacraments.

    If Jesus has to compare a decision of the Roman Pontiff and my decision as a priest or layman, if my decision or opinion contradicts what has been decided by the pope, then it is my outlook which is absolutely null and utterly void. Needless to say, the pope in 1969 and his successors clearly manifested their belief that Holy Orders are conferred validly in the present rites and practice of the Church. That is enough for us to know whether these Orders are valid.

  35. Fr. Sotelo: You rock!
    After a day of reflecting upon this; and might I say, at this point, I am less rational and sanguine than you, dear Father. You give a great response.
    My response: What the Hell?
    And that is the origin, in my puny little mind right now.
    You know, I have no S.T.L. nor J.C.D. nor S.T.D….I’m a “grunt monastic priest”, a convert that entered the Church 33 years ago because I believed it was the One, True, Apostolic and Holy Catholic Church (Sorry to mix them up!).
    And I count myself among the “unwashed”…those who just want to love the Lord, be faithful to Him, be in communion with His Holy Catholic Church…and cannot for the life of us, understand this hogwash…no bishops or priests validly ordained after 1969??
    This can only be the ruse of the Evil One…and very arrogant, idiotic, pig-headed deniers of reality.
    I’m sorry, but arguments about the Armenians, etc. do not impress me (sorry to you all!).
    Either God has given His Church the Holy Priesthood for all time (even in the “last days” when things will be most confusing and decimated…I leave that to the “Novissima” scholars and theologians…of which, I am not).
    Even though ordained in 2003 by His Excellency, Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, to the Holy Priesthood, I will continue to offer Holy Mass, hear confessions, administer Anointing of the Sick, etc., even though I am deemed by some to be invalidly ordained…a sacrilege…

  36. robert l says:

    I just wanted to say that there is articles out on the New Rite of Ordination and Consecration. A big concern is that the form for bishops put in place was only used in early centuries of the Church as a prayer during the installation of a patriarch(who was already a bishop) and the blessing of an abbott(who was still, after the blessing, a priest, not a bishop.) There is more besides that. A well known traditional priest put out such a detailed report 4 yrs ago, as well as a shorter version. Not that anyone is particulaly making this arguement, but if the proper form is not followed, than we can’t just believe the Church(Holy Ghost) will provide. We can believe that concerning jurisdiction in some cases, but never when is has to do with the form of the sacrament. We must rely on the objective, not subjective in this area.
    I believe oneros? mentioned that Pope’s in the past were wrong to permit abbotts to ordain their monks to the priesthood, that they were actually invalid. The abbotts in questioned, having received that faculty from the Pope, validly conferred Holy Orders. They were not raising a man to a higher dignity than themselves. Although not done in times near ours, the men ordained never were conditionally ordained nor did any future pope say anything against it. I believe Fr Bligh, amongst others, comments on this in his book put out in the late 40’s concerning the recent teachings of Pope Pius XII on the rites of ordination.

  37. Fr_Sotelo says:

    *A big concern is that the form for bishops put in place was only used in early centuries of the Church as a prayer during the installation of a patriarch(who was already a bishop) and the blessing of an abbott(who was still, after the blessing, a priest, not a bishop.)*

    Robert, the problem with this line of argument, so popular in traditionalist discussions of the validity of Holy Orders with the new rites, is how it naively presents the idea of a unified form (ignoring that the ancient Church was not monolithic) and it glosses over the lack of documentation for most forms used in the early centuries.

    A scholar of ancient and medieval rites will tell you that ordination prayers, like other parts of the liturgy, were spontaneously prayed in the first three centuries, following only basic outlines. Justin speaks of the bishop or priest praying “according to his ability.” That means he made up a lot of things as he went along. Even going into the Middle Ages, there is no proof that every ordaining bishop had a bound book/text which he used in consecrating and ordaining. For many, the possession of any books at all was a luxury.

    There was not an acolyte holding a beautiful gold-embossed Roman Pontifical with Ordination prayers being prayed according to any exact form. That was a much later development in the Church. And between East and West, the bishops in Africa and those in Gaul, there was variation of forms for Holy Orders. Almost all documentation of these rituals has been lost. Hippolytus gives us an idea of the consecration for a bishop in the year 215 AD, but even then his formula of consecration is a suggestion, not an exact prescription.

    There was certainly Catholic Faith, with the understanding that priests offer the Eucharist and forgive sins (the essential elements which Leo XIII said must be part of the proper intention). So, when those who call into doubt the validity of post-Vatican II Holy Orders compare the supposedly deficient forms of the present to the true, valid forms of the ancient Church, what leg do they have to stand on? Absolutely none. Zilch. We have scant documents which give us only a guestimate of the different prayers used in the ordination of bishops and priests.

    In fact, we Catholics speak of Apostolic Succession, and the passing on of Holy Orders from bishop to bishop and bishop to priest. But before the 11th century, we have no documents at all that describe the lines of Apostolic Succession. How do we know that SSPX bishops, or any bishop, can trace his succession to one of the 12 Apostles? The answer? We don’t know because there is no proof. We make an act of faith that SSPX bishops and other bishops come from an unbroken line going back to the original Twelve. That act of faith is that the ordaining prelate was always a bishop (even though ordinations were sometimes carried out by priests). We make an act of faith that all the bishops followed proper form. But we can not know for sure in the sense of having documented proof.

    Even the Gospel does not give us a drawn out form. The Council of Trent dogmatically defined that the Apostles were consecrated bishops at the Last Supper when Jesus said, “Do this in memory of me.” There is actually no mention in the text that He even laid hands on them, or used an actual “form” besides saying, “Do this in memory of me.” The best picture we have is that from the time of the Apostles until the third century, bishops laid hands and said some kind of prayer expressing the duty to offer the Eucharist and forgive sins.

    Beyond those details, you are dealing with pseudo-scholarship that often twists the few facts there are in order to impugn the validity of the rites of Orders published by Pope Paul VI. So this is why I say that much belief about valid Holy Orders in the Catholic Church is an act of faith, as we do not have documentation to back of many of our claims about which form was used, in what area of the Church, and in what century.

  38. Fr. Sotelo: Again, my thanks.

  39. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Nazareth priest: I have to apologize to you and everyone for this too long post. First, here is an online translation of the prayer for consecrating a bishop, found in the Apostolic Tradition of St. Hippolytus.

    *God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Father of mercies and God of all consolation, you who live in the highest, but regard the lowest, you who know all things before they are, you who gave the rules of the Church through the word of your grace, who predestined from the beginning the race of the righteous through Abraham, who instituted princes and priests, and did not leave your sanctuary without a minister;*
    *who from the beginning of the world has been pleased to be glorified by those whom you have chosen, pour out upon him the power which is from you, the princely Spirit, which you gave to your beloved Son Jesus Christ, which he gave to your holy apostles, who founded the Church in every place as your sanctuary, for the glory and endless praise of your name.*

    *Grant, Father who knows the heart, to your servant whom you chose for the episcopate, that he will feed your holy flock, that he will wear your high priesthood without reproach, serving night and day, incessantly making your face favorable, and offering the gifts of your holy church; in the spirit of high priesthood having the power to forgive sins according to your command; to assign lots according to your command; to loose any bond according to the authority which you gave to the apostles; to please you in mildness and a pure heart, offering to you a sweet scent, through your son Jesus Christ, through whom to you be glory, power, and honor, Father and Son, with the Holy Spirit, in the Holy Church, now and throughout the ages of the ages.* *Amen.*
    (K.P. Edgecomb, trans.)

    If we see the form used to ordain a bishop in the new rites, it pretty much incorporates this prayer of St. Hippolytus.

    Again, I want to state the caveat that many different forms were used for consecrating bishops in the Eastern rites. The valid transmission of Holy Orders, however, is not an obsessive hunt for the right “magical formula” but proceeds from the intention of the bishop to transmit the powers to offer sacrifice and absolve. Nothing in the form should obstruct or contradict a proper intention. However, the form does not have to be a theological treatise of Catholic dogma of priesthood either.

    Aquinas, I think, would have argued for the necessity of a more explicit form or consecratory prayer; however, Aquinas was unaware of these documents of the ancient Church and may have moderated his position if he saw how vague some of them were (this is an important detail which those who quote Aquinas do not take into account–his complete and total ignorance of liturgical texts which would not be rediscovered until centuries later).

    This intention is not sought merely in the form or rite of ordination, but in the confessed creeds and life of the church which is the context in which ordination takes place. In the case of Anglican Orders, the problem was not only with the fact that the forms or prayers had been tampered with, eliminating specifically Catholic phrases. But Pope Leo XIII rightly pointed out that the entire Anglican life and creeds, thanks to Cranmer, had assiduously expunged any sense of a Catholic priesthood, thereby manifesting an “invalid intention” behind the rites. In Cranmer’s time, there was concerted effort to attack the Catholic priesthood on many levels, thus invalidating Orders and negating the possibility of having valid ministers. A comparison cannot be made to the Novus Ordo, as Pope Paul VI never attacked the sense of Catholic priesthood.

    Thus, the validity of Orders in a Catholic sacramental sense is not judged merely on the form, but on the intention of the bishop to transmit the power to offer sacrifice and absolve sin. This intention is seen from his faith and preaching, and the faith and life of the church over which he presides. Whether a scholar or writer of the theology of priesthood grasps this tells you right away whether they are knowledgeable of Catholic “Tradtion” or are simply spouting the popular tenets of “tradition” (small “t”). To be blunt, I think many traditionalists who quote Leo XIII have actually not studied entirely and in depth the concepts of “Apostolicae Curae.”

    On this basis, it can under no way, shape, or form be said that Paul VI invalidated Catholic Orders of episcopacy and priesthood. Pope Paul’s published rites of ordination may not express as explicitly a Catholic sense of priesthood, but the faith and doctrine he preached in the Roman Church clearly, crystal clearly, manifested what is a truly Catholic theology of priesthood and therefore it is presumed that proper intention is still present in the Roman Church.

    The only invalid ordination of a Catholic priest would have to be preceded by an explicit statement of the ordaining bishop that “I have no intention whatsoever to transmit the power to confect transubstantiation or to absolve sin.” I don’t know about you, but I have never heard that statement at any Catholic ordination, and so I am compelled to believe that the Catholic priests I meet now still have valid orders. God bless, brother.

  40. robtbrown says:

    A few points:

    1. The promulgation of a rite of ordination is an exercise of papal infallibility. Although it is certainly not a direct teaching, as in, say, a papal document, nevertheless, the rite cannot contain error which would make it invalid. IMHO, it is an example of secondary objects of infallibility. That is why Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was able to invoke the OUM–because semper et ubique exclusively male ordination was intrinsic to the rite.

    2. Thus even though the Latin rite is promulgated for the West, it is universal because of its doctrinal content.

    3. In the Middles Ages some abbots were also consecrated bishops. In that situation any sacerdotal ordination would be valid. Above, someone said they would be valid if the authority came from the pope even if the abbot was not a bishop. This is not correct. Ordination is a function of power of order not the power of jurisdiction.

    4. It is very important to keep in mind that Intention and Form are equally important and that invalidity of Anglican Orders was not merely a function of invalid Form, but, as Ft Sotelo noted above, the form of the Edwardine Ordinal was a manifestation of invalid Intention.

    5. Having said that, I probably do not agree that an explicit statement by a bishop would be needed to invalidate ordination. Certainly, minimal intention is adequate. I don’t think, however, a bishop need make an explicit statement. Intention, whether valid or invalid, is by definition interior–a statement exterior. An invalid intention contradict either minimal intention or specific intention of a particular Sacrament.

  41. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Dr. Brown:

    *Intention, whether valid or invalid, is by definition interior—a statement exterior.*

    This is a good point. I guess what I meant was that in order *to prove* a Novus Ordo ordination as invalid, it would not be enough to assume that a guy had the wrong intention. As regards minimal intention, you are correct that this could also invalidate an ordination. However, I recall that, minimally, the Church expects the minister to intend what the Church intends by ordaining a bishop or a priest.

    Some have stated that ignorance of proper theology is the same as minimal intention, and I have a problem with that. Thus, assuming that bishops in the Novus Ordo are too ignorant of the Catholic theology of priesthood (an assumption I don’t agree with), some traditionalists assume that this would invalidate at least a good number of ordinations.

    As you know, if ignorance of the theology of priesthood qualifies as too minimal an intention, than that would invalidate many ordinations even before Vatican II (LOL). And whatever could be said of Paul VI as a leader, as a theologian he was a much sharper tool in the shed than Lefebvre.

  42. Fr_Sotelo says:

    I made a statement above which reads, “But Pope Leo XIII rightly pointed out….”

    I have to apologize, as I did not mean to communicate such an arrogant thought, as if I can critique the rightness of Pope Leo’s teaching. I am in no position whatsoever to judge or assess the writing of one of the greatest Pontiffs of all time. What I meant was that Pope Leo so eloquently taught Catholic doctrine in that passage, as he does in all his writings.

  43. JP Borberg says:

    Fr Sotelo,

    Why the swipes at the SSPX?

  44. Fr_Sotelo says:


    The remarks about “traditionalists” are not directed at the SSPX. I have a lot of respect for most priests of the SSPX and regret very much if I have come across as directing “swipes” at them.

    The remark about SSPX bishops was meant to say that regardless of the ritual of ordination, doubts can be had about their validity as well as the Novus Ordo bishops, if one wishes to go look for doubts or to start raising doubts (this thread originates with questions about Novus Ordo validity, but there is no question of SSPX validity).

    You see, discussions focus on the proper “form” as reason to doubt someone’s Orders, but the inconvenient truth is that there is no historical documentation to back up the claim that any Catholic bishop is a successor to the Apostles. Neither pre or post Vatican II bishops can document the Apostolic Succession going back to the Apostles, regardless of how excellent a rite they feel was used to ordain them.

    This is relevant because some have stated that based on the “right form” one should doubt his ordination in the Novus Ordo but not any ordinations within the SSPX. But eventually we all make an act of faith based upon what the Church, through the Roman Pontiff, tells us. If the Roman Pontiff tells me that a person or group has valid Orders, that is enough for me.

  45. robtbrown says:

    Fr Sotelo,

    I didn’t say that minimal intention invalidates a Sacrament (at least, I hope I didn’t say it). Minimal intention is always valid. And minimal intention is always the same for every Sacrament and general–intending to do what the Church does. Less than minimal intention is obviously invalid.

    Minimal Intention is always general and always the same–to intend to do what the Church does. On the other hand, theology is always specific–in the Sacraments it specifies what the Church does. And so I cannot see how ignorance of theology would invalidate minimal intention.

  46. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Dr. Brown:

    Thank you again for that clarification. I misunderstood when you wrote, *”Certainly, minimal intention is adequate.”* I now see that you meant, “minimal intention is adequate to confect the sacrament.”

    I took you to mean, “minimal intention is adequate to invalidate a sacrament” because of the sentence that had just preceded. I scratched my head and thought, “I guess if the ordaining prelate was totally clueless that would be true LOL.” My bad. But now the light went on :)

  47. robtbrown says:

    Fr S,

    Sorry for the confusion, which was my fault.

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