Declaration concerning the consecration of bishops without papal mandate… in China

From VIS:


VATICAN CITY, 4 JUL 2011 (VIS) – The Holy See Press Office today released the following English-language communique concerning the episcopal ordination of Fr. Paul Lei Shiyin, which took place on Wednesday 29 June and was conferred without the apostolic mandate.

“Fr. Lei Shiyin, ordained without the papal mandate and hence illegitimately, has no authority to govern the diocesan Catholic community, and the Holy See does not recognise him as the bishop of the diocese of Leshan. The effects of the sanction which he has incurred through violation of the norm of canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law remain in place.

“Fr. Lei Shiyin had been informed, for some time, that he was unacceptable to the Holy See as an episcopal candidate for proven and very grave reasons.

“The consecrating bishops have exposed themselves to the grave canonical sanctions laid down by the law of the Church (in particular, canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law; cf. Declaration of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts of 6 June 2011).

“An episcopal ordination without papal mandate is directly opposed to the spiritual role of the Supreme Pontiff and damages the unity of the Church. The Leshan ordination was a unilateral act which sows division and unfortunately produces rifts and tensions in the Catholic community in China. The survival and development of the Church can only take place in union with him to whom the Church herself is entrusted in the first place, and not without his consent as, however, occurred in Leshan. If it is desired that the Church in China be Catholic, the Church’s doctrine and discipline must be respected. [In China or anywhere else.]

“The Leshan episcopal ordination has deeply saddened the Holy Father, who wishes to send to the beloved faithful in China a word of encouragement and hope, inviting them to prayer and unity”.

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  1. ““Fr. Lei Shiyin, ordained without the papal mandate and hence illegitimately, has no authority to govern the diocesan Catholic community, and the Holy See does not recognise him as the bishop of the diocese of Leshan.”

    So, his ordination is real, is valid, though, right? This is a problem when one has a metaphysical/sacramental and not just a legal view of the structure of the Church. It’s a real liability, but it is what it is, Christ having willed it.

    Is there nothing in canon law or Catholic tradition that would suggest that ordinations without papal approval are no ordinations at all?

  2. dropper says:

    I believe that the three things needed for all sacraments go be valid are for there to be valid matter, valid intent, and valid form. I’d suspect that the intent here may be lacking, though not necessarily so, which would make this ordination invalid AND illicit. If all three components were met, I believe that this ordination would indeed be valid, though illicit. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong.

  3. guatadopt says:

    Dropper you are correct. That is one of the fundamental differences between Orthodox and Catholic ecclesiology. The Orthodox consider any ordination performed outside the church to be invalid. They make no distinction between law and validity. Some autocephalous churches make exception for the Roman church, some don’t. The Catholic church, as you suggested, needs only form, matter and intent for validity…but legality comes from proper jurisdiction which was not obtained in this case from Rome. The same is true for ordinations of priests outside the jurisdiction of the ordinary.

  4. Prof. Basto says:

    Saint Irinaeus,

    As the statement implies, the illegitimate ordinations were valid. However, an illegitimate ordination, even when sacramentally valid, bestows on the person ordained no jurisdiction. Hence the ordained has no authority over the diocese or over its Catholic community.

    The recognition of the validity of this illicit consacration is in line with the constant teaching of the Church regarding the Sacrament of Holy Orders: the norm of Church law that a Bishop can only ordain someone else a Bishop with the approbation of the lawful authority responsible for the election of candidates (in most cases this authority is the Successor of Peter, and that is the general rule at least in the Latin Church) has no bearing on the validity of the Sacrament, although this is an all-important disciplinary rule, the breach of which is always a very grave act bordering on schism.

    Unlike other Sacraments (such as Confirmation and Penance), in which the possession of faculties, either granted by competent authority or by the law itself, impacts upon the very validity of the Sacrament, the Church has always held that a Bishop is always a valid minister of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. The requirement of authorization from the Roman Pontiff for legitimacy of the episcopal ordination (and for the ordained to acquire jurisdiction in the Church) does not impact upon the validity of the act if the minimum requirements of matter, form and intention are present.

    Abuse of the sacred trust held by Bishops in this grave manner, however, is always a sad act, that threatens the unity of the Church of God.

  5. robtbrown says:

    Prof Basto,

    Well said.

  6. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Prof. Basto,

    if I’m not very wrong I might add that for Holy Confirmation itself, no jurisdiction is needed as to its validity in itself; it may be the faculty for non-bishop priests (the exception) to confirm which depends on jurisdiction. And I’m not even sure about the latter.

  7. Prof. Basto says:

    Dear Imrahil,

    I’m not sure, not being a canonist or a sacramental theologian.

    The Code of Canon Law says that Bishops (ordinary ministers of Confirmation) can validly administer Confirmation everywhere; for lawful administration, however, they need the permission, at least presumed, from the local Ordinary.

    Priests, however, who are extraordinary ministers of this Sacrament, must have faculties for VALID administration of it; to that provision, Canon Law further states that the facutly can derive from the provisions of law itself or from a grant of competent authority. Then it goes on to list those priests who have the faculties by virtue of the law itself (priests who are equivalent in law to the Diocesan Bishop; priests who grant this Sacrament to a person in danger of death, priests who, in virtue of their office or by mandate of the Bishop, baptize an adult or receive one into full ecclesiastical communion), and those cases in which the faculty can be granted by the competent authority.

    So, extraordinary ministers (priests, who are not bishops), require faculties either from the law or from competent authority for valid concession of the Sacrament. The law implies Bishops can always confirm validly. But what does that mean? That Bishops don’t need faculties at all or that all of them have faculties implicitly granted by general canon law. And, if they do need faculties and get it from general canon law, does this grant include schismatic bishops, or bishops who are ordained without pontifical mandate and who therefore are excluded from the power of jurisdiction and from membership of the College of Bishops? That’s the doubt.

    Perhaps someone who is in the know can answer that for us.

  8. RichR says:

    The SSPX was unavailable for comment.

  9. RichR says:

    Okay, a bit tongue in cheek. But I do honestly wonder what they would say. To condemn the act is to admit that episcopal consecration without papal mandate is wrong. To support it is to side with the Chinese Communists. An interesting Catch-22 if I ever saw one.

  10. dropper says:

    RichR, the two do not compare. The ordinations by the SSPX were perhaps illicit, but the intentions behind them and the Chinese ordination are diametrically opposed to one another. The SSPX do not deny the head of the Church is the Pope and they did what they did because of what they saw as a very real crisis in the Church. If they were and are right (I don’t think that many would deny that there is a crisis that continues to this day in the Church), the Code of Canon Law exonerated them long before the excommunications were lifted.

  11. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Prof. Basto,

    thank you for your answer. If I go to what seems to me to be the intrinsical points – being, of course, not a sacramental theologian either – I might say that there is very little jurisdictional about Holy Confirmation, especially as confronted to Holy Orders (one reason for its reserving to bishops, in scholasticism, was the fact that it gives a “sort-of-office” in the Church; but that’s it); though there is much jurisdictional about granting the faculty to one who in his degree of Holy Orders doesn’t have it.

  12. moon1234 says:

    This creates a very interesting scenerio for those living in China. This single statement from the Vatican essentially shoots a deadly arrow through the Chinese National Catholic Church. It does not accuse CHINA of doing anything wrong, rather, it accuses those acting FOR China. A diplomatic shot across the bow that does not directly name the enemy, yet deals her a decisive blow.

    The Communist Chinese thought they had it all figured out. Put in their own people with valid Bishops and will the people be able to say? The true Catholics in China will easily see these Bishops as having no authority at all.

    I have to imagine this statement has caused great consternation in the communist inner circle. What can they do? If they give up on forcing ordinations, Rome wins. If they crack down on all Catholics in the country who don’t go to the STATE CHURCH, then they also indirectly lose as they will create martyrs.

    The statement is also pleasing to all other Catholics around the world as it is a t transparent blow to the Chinese attempt to subvert the Pope.

  13. JohnRoss says:

    The Patriotic Church in China is in schism with Rome just as much as any Orthodox or Anglican church is.

    I thought that Pius XII excommunicated them in the 1950s.

  14. MichaelJ says:

    Is Episcopal Ordination a Sacrament? Does it impart a Character on the Soul that is distinguishable from the Character imparted by a Priestly Ordination? If not, I do not see how matter, intent and form fit into the equation.

  15. Imrahil says:

    Yes it is. See Vatican II, Christus Dominus.

  16. MJ says:

    This reminds me of the Thuc situation…I did read (but have since forgotten) what the circumstances behind the Thuc consecrations were, but I wonder how those bishops stand today…

  17. Centristian says:

    “This reminds me of the Thuc situation…I did read (but have since forgotten) what the circumstances behind the Thuc consecrations were, but I wonder how those bishops stand today…”

    Nothing good ever came from any of that I’m aware of. Perhaps the most well-known of Thuc’s litter of episcopal vagrants was Clemente Dominguez, who mutilated himself to fake the stigmata. Thuc raised this deranged charlatan to the “episcopacy”, and shortly after that he began telling his circle that, following the death of Pope Paul VI in 1978, Jesus Christ appeared to him and personally crowned him with the papal tiara as “Pope Gregory XVII”. The Lord commanded him to establish a new Holy See in El Palmar de Troya near Seville, Spain, which he did, domed basilica and all.

    Thuc also consecrated bishops for the Old Catholics and for various Sedevacantist outfits. As with the SSPX bishops, I find it hard to actually look upon any of these men as bishops. Each one of them stole the episcopacy like thieves in the night. Is something stolen legitimately one’s possession. And if they legitimately enjoy sacramental ordination, does that, alone, make these men “bishops”? Is Clemente Dominguez, the deranged con-artist claiming to be Pope Gregory XVII of the Palmarian Catholic Church truly a “Successor of the Apostles”?

    “Pope” Gregory is dead now. He was succeeded by another con-artist calling himself “Pope Peter II”.

  18. MichaelJ says:

    Was your response in reply to my question? If so, would you mind clarifying a bit? Are you saying that Vatican II created an 8th Sacrament?

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