Father, I’ve done some reading on whether Novus Order orders are truly valid or not and am confused. Would love to get your learned comments on the matter. Thanks for your work.
You ask if ordinations to Holy Orders using the post-Conciliar rites implemented by Paul VI, later revised, are valid.
Others have asked the same question. People worry about these things because everything depends on valid orders for an orderly Church according to the will of the Lord. No priest – no Eucharist – no Church.
I’ve written on this issue half a dozen times on this blog. I even had a PODCAzT about it.
Back in the day, the late and highly esteemed Michael Davies wrote an alarming book called Order of Melchisedech: A Defence of the Catholic Priesthood. US HERE – UK HERE It was closely argued and persuasive.
Davies argued, in essence, that in his day – early 90s, there was no question that Latin Church Orders were valid with the “Novus Ordo” Pauline rites. However, he suggested that in time to come, with the break down of theological formation, more and more bishops would be ignorant, errant, or at least sketchy about Catholic theology of orders. Hence, they would not have the correct intention to ordain as the Church intended. In the 90s bishops still got it. In the future, it would be far less sure.
This is critical because the first edition of the Pauline rites had left out explicit statements about what the priest was ordained to do: say Mass and forgive sins. Rites should be explicit about what they are doing to convey the proper intention. That’s why Davies raised the alarm. If those Pauline rites were kept as they were, and if bishops in the future were sketchy about the priesthood, then they would not confer valid Orders!
Someone in the Vatican figured this out.
Thus, in 1990 Pope St. John Paul II issued a new edition of the Rites for Ordination of all three orders, diaconate, priesthood and episcopate. As a matter of fact, I was, I think, the first man in the world ordained with the new rite for diaconate. Card. Mayer had to get a copy of the new book from the Congregation for Worship because it wasn’t out in circulation yet. That year, 1990, John Paul ordained priests in the Vatican Basilica with the new book. I was ordained by him with the new book in 1991. I wonder if that makes me a second class relic.
What was the difference because the Johanno-Pauline edition and the Pauline? John Paul put back into the rite, in the part with the interrogations of the priesthood ordinandi, specific questions relating to confecting the Eucharist and absolving sins. He made the rites more specific. Frankly I didn’t study or compare the rites for the episcopate, since I will never have to undergo them!
There is also the problem of the translation of the rites into English. That was a mess of galactic magnitude. As a matter of fact, I believe that the absurd rendering that the earlier incarnation of ICEL did was so bad that the camel’s back was finally broken. The Congregation issued page after page of scathing comments about the inaccuracies and theological errors their version introduced. After that ICEL was disbanded and reconstituted under new leaders. The rites eventually produced in English and in use today are dependable.
At this point I’ll add, because someone will ask, a priest is not more a priest because he is ordained with the older, traditional rite. Do I wish that I had been ordained with the traditional rites? Sure! The rites are far richer and more meaningful, just as the traditional rites are in regard to all the sacraments. And I wish that I had the same ordaining bishops, too (Card. Mayer – the holiest man I’ve ever known, and John Paul II). However, as it turns out I was ordained – both times – with the rites entirely in Latin, from the best book available, by the holiest of men. That’s not bad.
There is no question that the post-Conciliar rites for ordination validly conferred Holy Orders. That is even more certain with the revisions made by John Paul II in 1990.