Sunday, July 14, 2013

Giving Clerics and Arguments Even-Handed Treatment

 The uncharitable, puerile, name-calling boors at the blog "Pistrina Liturgica" (PL) are still at it: desperately trying to "prove" ordination with one hand to be doubtful. (See my previous posts of 4/22/13 and 6/8/13). Calling Bishop Daniel Dolan "One Hand Dan" and Fr. Cekada "Tony Baloney" are but some of the insults they routinely throw around to besmirch the reputations of two good clerics. (For the record, one need not agree with every theological argument/position taken by a Traditionalist priest or bishop--especially during this unprecedented time of sedevacante--in order for them to be good clerics). Such sustained vitriol makes me want to send a few names their way but (a) I will never stoop to such a level and (b) my mother (God rest her soul) taught me never to insult the mentally challenged, so I decline to do so now.

 In their latest post of  July 14, 2013, PL is now publishing "The third in a series of our reactions to e-mail comments received as a result of our crusade to rescue the Rev. Mr. Nkamuke's priestly orders from a lifetime of wrenching doubt." The alleged doubt of the deacon's soon to come ordination arises due to the (also alleged) doubt of the (also alleged) one handed priestly ordination of Bishop Dolan.
The post begins by quoting an email that specifically names me: "Funny how all the Cekada backstoppers like Introibo Ad Altare are completely ignoring the fact that he mistranslated Pius XII. You gave 5 examples to show how no one else ever translated it as "one and the same" and no one added extra words either [See our May 11 post]. I respectfully submit a SIXTH. Weird how everybody but Cekada including the "Novus Ordo" can get it right. Sede priests are idiots."

First, I'm not a "backstopper" for anyone. I follow the evidence and arguments where they lead. I disagree with Fr. Cekada on the Schiavo case. I also disagree with attendance at "una cum" Masses where no sedevacantist priest can be found. I disagree that Frs. Baumberger and Greenwell were invalidly ordained by Bishop Mendez. I also disagree with the SSPV that Thuc orders are per se invalid, and that you can deny those who attend such Masses Holy Communion. I also had theological disagreements with my spiritual Father, the late, great Fr. Gommar A. De Pauw.

Let's see what arguments PL actually employ:

  1. The Correct Translation of Sacramentum Ordinis  (SO)
Fully conceding that Fr. Cekada mistranslated SO, it doesn't do one iota to help PL's assertion that one handed ordinations are dubious. As I've explained in previous posts, the phrase "imposition of HANDS" has been used in theology manuals to refer to both one handed deacon ordinations as well as two handed priestly ordinations and episcopal consecrations. I also pointed out that if this were not the case, Pope Pius XII was in ERROR when he wrote "the matter, and the only matter, of the sacred orders of the diaconate, the priesthood, and the episcopacy is the imposition of hands." He should have written, "the matter, and the only matter of the sacred order of the diaconate is the imposition of the one hand. The matter, and the only matter of the sacred orders of the priesthood and the episcopacy is the imposition of both hands." Remember, PL thinks that there may be an essential (i.e. substantial) difference in the matter of the sacrament depending on whether one or two hands are used. This being the case, a two handed ordination of a deacon must be held dubious, and Pope Pius' poorly worded phrase makes it seem like both hands are needed for the diaconate. True, he later specifies one hand for the ordination of a deacon, but that doesn't vitiate the fact that what he wrote prior would be (according to the principles laid down by PL) incorrect--the matter and the only matter of the sacred order of diaconate is not the imposition of HANDS, but the imposition of a HAND. Two hands may be substantially different from one hand, and render the deacon's ordination "dubious."

Fr. Cekada got it wrong on one point, but right on the overall conclusion. As I do not wish to be guilty of rash judgment against a priest, I will not ascribe bad motives, but priests are all too human. Hence, the correct translation of SO is inapposite as to whether one handed ordinations are dubious--as a matter of fact, the correct translation actually serves to vindicate the conclusion that such one handed ordinations ARE valid! I'm not ignoring the fact, I'm pointing out that it doesn't help PL's case one bit.

   2. Attempting to "Prove" a One Handed Ordination With Hearsay

PL wrote in a prior post 6/22/13: Today we will lay out four overarching reasons for believing that at least one 1976 one-handed priestly ordination is not the stuff of urban legend but is highly plausible. Be advised that the following are private reasons, and therefore we shall not disclose the identities of the reporters and witnesses. We know who they are, and we are personally satisfied as to their rectitude and veracity. Our object is not to persuade anyone else to adopt our position, but solely to let the unbiased observer know that our belief in at least one one-handed ordination is founded on clear-and-convincing evidence.

We will see that the evidence is far from "clear and convincing."

They write:In 1990, nine Roman Catholic Priests affixed their signatures to a letter addressed to the Rev. Daniel Dolan. The letter declared, in part, "... your ordination was done with one hand." Admittedly, some of these clergymen may not have checked the texts of the references cited in the letter, but they could scarcely have missed the hard, categorical assertion that the addressee had been ordained with one hand. They surely were morally certain of the allegation or their consciences would not have permitted them to sign their names. This sanguine inference must be true, because a priest has reported that many American clergy at the time were aware of the report of the archbishop's conferring one-handed priestly orders in 1976. (Apparently little was made of the event at first, owing to the great esteem in which the archbishop was held: Amost everyone then thought he could do no wrong.)  

Let's see:
  • None of the nine claim to have witnessed the one handed ordination.
  • The fact that NINE signed it does nothing to prove they were eyewitnesses to the event. Without such EYEWITNESS testimony, the number is meaningless--you have nine people who saw nothing.
  • "They (i.e. the nine who signed the letter) surely were morally certain of  the allegation or their consciences would not permit them to sign it." I see, if "Tony Baloney" or "One Hand Dan" were to sign a letter or write an article we must ascribe to them every evil motive in the book because everyone knows they are liars and uneducated buffoons. However, when priests who agree with a position taken by PL sign something they are paragons of virtue whose motives are as pure as the driven snow. The fact that the letter was written years later and after he left the SSPV couldn't possibly go to show a motive to "get him" for leaving Clarence Kelly, right?
  • A priest (whoever he is) has reported that many (quantify "many") American clergy at the time were aware of the report (reported by whom? being aware of a report of something is not the same of being aware that what is reported is accurate and true) of the Archbishop's conferring one-handed priestly orders in 1976. (Oh, please God, I can only hope none of those at PL are lawyers who have to present real EVIDENCE on behalf of their clients!!)

First-hand reports from former seminarians at Écône and Winona relate it was common knowledge that the '76 ordinations had been performed with one hand. At least one of these men, who later received his own priestly orders from one of the '76 ordinati, underwent conditional ordination as a safeguard against any future impeachment of his orders.
What does this prove?
  • If these "first-hand" reports are true wouldn't their consciences (to which PL gives great deference) compel them to speak out against all those so ordained and demand they stop administering the Sacraments until they are conditionally re-ordained? This obviously was not done.
  • One priest, who heard the allegation, went to get conditionally re-ordained. This proves nothing other than (a) he erroneously believed one-handed ordinations to be dubious (if it even took place) and (b) he didn't want to endure the indignity of having himself called names by uncharitable cretins in their blog. 
  • Suppose there's someone who wanted to get conditionally baptized, because he was a baby and was afraid the priest might have done something wrong. How does this prove anything, except perhaps for paranoia?
A witness present at the '76 ordination confirmed in writing that the one-handed ordination happened, and he confided his irritation with the senior clergy in the sanctuary who did not intervene at the moment the defect occurred. Another individual, who was not present at the 1976 ordination, heard from others who were present that the archbishop had been "in a panic" following the ceremony but later composed himself after another party "explained" the validity of one-handed priestly orders. 
What does this show? Not much:
  • If true, wouldn't the "panic-stricken" Archbishop check out the matter himself? If it's so evident that one-handed ordinations are dubious, wouldn't he demand re-ordination? After all he was trained pre-Vatican II and should know better, not like the so-called "Traddie" clergy with their "inferior" training as PL claims.
  • Bishop Richard Williamson was in that ordination class. Has anyone asked HIM about the matter? Why isn't he known as "One Hand Dick"? (Sounds like a porno star). Why isn't everyone trying to "save" the countless SSPX priests who were ordained by Williamson?

If Daniel Dolan affirmatively knew he had been ordained with two hands, then by natural right and in natural justice he had a moral duty to deny immediately, vigorously, and unequivocally the nine priests' allegation that his "ordination was done with one hand." (A lofty refusal to "dignify a charge with an answer," as every wise man now knows, is an ethical failing as well as a public-relations miscalculation.)  However, no one seems to have a written record showing that Daniel Dolan, not a surrogate, emphatically controverted the priests' declaration in 1990. On the contrary, with Fr. Cekada's aid, Daniel Dolan in fact complied with the nine priests who urged him "diligently to research the problem and, to let us know any findings which shed light on this issue."

Where to begin?

  • Whenever a priest or bishop sets out to confect a sacrament, validity is to be presumed, unless and until the contrary is shown.
  • Principle and proof:
    Sacraments conferred by a Catholic minister, including Holy Orders, must be presumed valid until invalidity is proved.
    This is “the queen of presumptions, which holds the act or contract as valid, until invalidity is proved.” (F. Wanenmacher, Canonical Evidence in Marriage Cases, [Philadelphia: Dolphin 1935], 408.)
    “When the fact of ordination is duly established, the validity of the orders conferred is naturally to be presumed.” (W. Doheny, Canonical Procedure in Matrimonial Cases [Milwaukee: Bruce 1942] 2:72.)
  • Bishop Dolan has no "moral duty" to comply with rank calumny or to give credence to an incorrect presupposition, i.e., one-handed ordinations are dubious. PL puts the burden of proof on the wrong party. Merely stating something without solid evidence proves NOTHING.
  • Bishop Dolan's compliance to research the matter is not an admission it happened. It's along the lines of "even if what you say is true, it makes no difference, and here's the reasons why."

    3. The Nail In PL's Coffin: Eastern Orders

I will now reproduce what I wrote in a previous post, because it is a defeater for PL's position.

The most absurd "rebuttal" to Fr. Cekada's work, occurs when PL attempts to refute his arguments that one handed ordinations are routinely used in the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches. They do not claim his translation is wrong and that two hands are used. They do not claim he simply made stuff up. Their "argument" (I'm being kind in referring to it as such) is as ridiculous as it seems:
"SO WHAT!" (sic)

Remember, PL thinks that the plain meaning of SO is all that counts, so they go on to declare:

"Therefore, it seems to us very simple: after April 28, 1948, the only valid matter for priestly ordination in the Roman rite is the imposition of the bishop's (two) hands. Nothing else matters, so to speak. All this business about Byzantine, Coptic, or Maronite rites is not germane. If you're going to be an undoubted priest of the Roman rite in the wake of the promulgation of Sacramentum Ordinis, you must receive the imposition of (both) the bishop's hands. In light of the explicit definition found in Pius's apostolic constitution, one-handed conferral of priestly orders can only be viewed as a defect in the Roman rite of ordination. Whether one-handed conferral is an essential defect or not must wait until the Church decides the question, an event that may not happen for quite some time. In the meanwhile, a deeply solicitous regard for the salvation of souls demands that one-handed priestly orders be considered, for safety's sake, an essential defect. "

This is sheer ignorance at its worst. The underlying assumption PL makes is that it is possible for the Roman Pontiff to subtantially (i.e. "essentially") change the matter of a sacrament, so that what is valid in one rite might become invalid in another. Pope Pius XII could not declare that use of leavened bread for the Eucharist is an "essential" or "substantial" defect in the Latin/Roman Rite, so that a properly trained and validly ordained priest of the Roman Rite using it at Mass would not confect the Eucharist but an Eastern Rite priest would do so. Illicit, yes. Invalid, no. Likewise, to say that one handed ordination might be illicit is one thing, but not invalid.

  • "It is well-known that to the Church there belongs no right whatsoever to innovate anything on the substance of the Sacraments" Pope St. Pius X, Ex quo nono, 1910
  • "The Church is forbidden to change, or even touch, the matter or form of any Sacrament. She may indeed change or abolish or introduce something in the non-essential rites or "ceremonial" parts to be used in the administration of the Sacraments, such as the processions, prayers or hymns, before or after the actual words of the form are recited..." Pope Leo XIII, Apostolicae Curae, 1896

  •  Theologian John de Torquemada declared (1) that the Church had no power over the matter and form of the sacraments and (2) that the sacraments must be the same in the whole Church, since 'the unity of the Church is necessarily founded in the unity of faith and the unity of sacraments, in what concerns the substance of the sacraments.' Pope Eugene IV immediately approved this language. Further, the substance of a sacrament must at the very least convey Christ's meaning, so it would seem fully within the power of the Church to say that this or that form does or does not sufficiently express the meaning....In Extreme Unction, the Church never doubted the validity of the sacrament in the Orthodox Church, although the words of the form are various (See Leeming, Bernard Principles of Sacramental Theology (1962), pgs 420, 430).

  • It's clear that Pope Pius XII, could NOT have changed the substance (essence) of the sacrament so as to make the matter for the Latin Rite differ in validity from the Eastern Rites. It would result in this absurdity: A Latin/Roman Rite Bishop attempts to ordain a man to the priesthood using one of the Eastern Rites. Is it invalid? If the pope allows him to become a Bishop in the Eastern Rite, is it now valid? Or is it the subject (Roman or Eastern) whom determines what matter must be employed for validity? Bottom line: If it's valid in one Rite, it is valid matter for all Rites and can not be substantially different.

      4. Conclusion
    When it comes to theological matters, PL should keep their hands off. They cause strife and doubt where none should exist. Their "arguments" are based on their personal prejudices and they sift "evidence" to fit these same prejudices. There's an old aphorism that one should not speak or write about matters that one doesn't understand. In the case of PL, it would seem to dictate perpetual silence and no more postings.


    1. Thanks for this post. I have been trying to refute this guy in the comments too. If you get a chance you might read through the anonymous comments on there.

    2. I only stumbled upon the PL blog yesterday. They appear to have some valid complaints. The problem is the invective abounds and will do them no good, materially or spiritually. My comments, for the most part, were most unwelcome; although admittedly, my first comment was cheeky. They seem to be spinning in an orbit from which they cannot or do not wish to escape.
      Thank you for offering this post.
      BTW, I remember Fr. DePauw as I attended his Mass a few times over the years.