The Traditionalist bugbear that everyone of the faithful will hear at some point, is that Masonic clergy or an "unstable" prelate within the Catholic Church, lacked the proper intention to confer Holy Orders when they ordained/consecrated priests and bishops to continue the True Church after the Great Apostasy of Vatican II. The logical result is that any Traditionalist priests who were ordained by these bishops, or by other bishops who derive their episcopal orders from them, are dubious and must be avoided. Your only choice is to be a Home Aloner or find some elderly priest ordained pre-1968. All Traditionalist priests come from one of three episcopal lineages: (1) Archbishop Peter Thuc, (2) Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, and (3) Bishop Alfred Mendez.
The enemies of the Faith calumniate each of them. Abp. Thuc and Bp. Mendez (so we are told) were either senile or "unbalanced" and couldn't have had the proper intention for a valid conferral of a sacrament. Abp. Lefebvre was ordained and consecrated by an alleged Mason who supposedly withheld his intention on purpose to destroy the Church, which resulted in the Archbishop remaining as a mere deacon. Recently, I saw a website putting quotations around all Traditionalist clergy titles (e.g., "Fr."). I have dealt with the issue of Archbishop Lefebvre before; See http://introiboadaltaredei2.blogspot.com/2016/05/doubting-yourself-in-extreme.html; see also http://introiboadaltaredei2.blogspot.com/2016/08/sophistry-on-steroids.html.
In this post, I will try to deal concisely with the objection to lack of intent. Once Church teaching has been set forth, the case against Traditionalist orders on such specious grounds will melt away.
The Requirements for a Valid Sacrament
A sacrament is a visible sign of an invisible grace, instituted by Jesus Christ for the salvation of the human race; however, not all sacraments are necessary for each individual.
There are four indispensable requirements to confect (i.e. "make") a valid sacrament: proper administer who uses proper matter, form, and has the intention to do what the Church does. The administer (or "minister") must be the person who can perform the sacrament (e.g., a priest for Penance and a bishop for Holy Orders). The matter is the sensible sign that must be used (e.g. bread and wine at Mass). The form is the necessary words that must be used by the minister of the sacrament as he applies the matter (e.g., saying "THIS IS MY BODY" over the bread at Mass). Finally, the minister must intend to do what the Church does while applying the matter and form. (See theologian Pohle, Dogmatic Theology, 8:59-60).
Self-styled "theologians" call into question the last requirement: the intention to do what the Church does.
What Constitutes A Proper Intention?
Why must the minister of a sacrament have an intention? God will not force anyone to do something. The minister of a sacrament must have free will, and therefore be able to perform a rational, human act. According to theologian Ott, "The human minister is a creature endowed with reason and freedom. The act involved in the execution of the administration of the Sacrament must therefore be an actus humanus [human act], that is, an activity which proceeds from understanding and free will."(See Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, pg. 343). Again, theologian Davis teaches, "That he [the minister of a sacrament] must have some intention is clear from the fact that he is to act as a rational agent, and to act rationally some intention is necessary" (See Moral and Pastoral Theology, 3:16; words in brackets mine).
To be valid, a virtual intention is at minimum necessary. According to theologian Davis, "... virtual intention suffices, for this suffices for a human act, and therefore for the sacramental act." (See Moral and Pastoral Theology, 3:17). According to theologian Ott, a virtual intention is "that disposition of the will, which is conceived before the action and which continues virtually during the action." (See Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, pgs. 343-344). In simple terms, it means that we can perform an intended act while being distracted. When I drive to work, I intend to drive, but I'm distracted by a phone call from a client on my bluetooth. I don't specifically remember all the details of driving, but it was a human act of a rational agent who wanted to drive but was distracted while continuing to (and wanting to) drive.
Theologian Davis comments as follows:
Some attention is necessary in conferring the Sacraments as in every human act. In internal attention, there is usually full advertence to what one does. So much is, obviously, not necessary, for we do many things and act in a human way without this advertence. A lesser degree of attention is therefore sufficient and this is called external attention, which, though internal in itself, is very vague, but is sufficient to carry us through a human act, provided we do nothing that is incompatible with a full internal attention if it were suddenly required. It would be an error to call this act purely automatic. Such external attention is present when one assists at Mass without conscious advertence to what is going on, but at the same time without engrossing the mind with things that are not compatible with true attention to Mass. It is possible, for example, to recite the Rosary and attend to Mass; it is not possible to concentrate the mind on an abstruse mathematical problem and at the same time to attend to Mass. This kind of external attention, as it is called, is sufficient in prayer, in reciting the divine office, in hearing Mass, in receiving the Sacraments, and in conferring them. It is not necessary, therefore, to have actual attention to what is being done in conferring the Sacraments, but as some attention is necessary in every human act, the most that can be required is that amount and degree of advertence to what we do which is not incompatible with what we do.(See Moral and Pastoral Theology, 3:20).
What must the administer intend, exactly? You must intend to do what the Church does, not intend to do what the Church intends. According to theologian Ott, "The minister... does not need to intend what the Church intends, namely, to produce the effects of the Sacraments, for example, the forgiveness of sins; neither does he need to intend to execute a specific Catholic rite. It suffices if he have the intention of performing the religious action as it is current among Christians [i.e., Catholics]. (See Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, pg. 344; word in parenthesis mine).
The Presumption of Validity
There is a rebuttable presumption (praesumptio juris tantum) that every time a Catholic cleric seriously undertakes to perform a sacrament it is done validly. It is presumed that the correct matter, form, and intention were all present. Pope Leo XIII clearly teaches:
According to theologian DeSalvo, "As long as the lack of proper intention is not externally manifested, the Church presumes that the intention of the minister is correct." (See The Dogmatic Theology on the Intention of the Minister in the Confection of the Sacraments, , pg. 105).
The theologian Leeming says this passage of Pope Leo XIII above recapitulates the teachings of previous theologians who "...all agreed that the outward decorous performance of the rites sets up a presumption that the right intention exists.… The minister of a sacrament is presumed to intend what the rite means… This principle is affirmed as certain theological doctrine, taught by the Church, to deny which would be at least theologically rash." (See Principles of Sacramental Theology , 476, 482.).
The reason for this principle is clear: Divine Providence will prevent the Church from defecting. While we can never know with absolute certainty (without Divine revelation) if any particular sacrament is valid, we have moral certainty, and the assurance that the Church will continue. Each week at Mass, you don't know if the priest tampered with the bread and or wine. You don't know if he correctly pronounced (and included) all the necessary words of Consecration. He could have done such things, but it is never to be presumed. On moral certainty, the Church allows us to adore that which looks as mere bread as Jesus Christ Himself.
The reason for this presumption is spelled out by theologian Courtemanche, "...it would be monstrous for the law to presume that what the mouth speaks is not in the heart, since that would be tantamount to presuming the presence of a lie." (See The Total Simulation of Matrimonial Consent, , pg. 41).
Application of the Foregoing Principles to Abp. Thuc and Bp. Mendez
The majority of Traditionalist clergy come from Archbishop Peter Thuc (1897-1984), the former Archbishop of Hue, South Vietnam. The clergy of the Society of St. Pius V (SSPV), derive their episcopal orders from Bishop Alfred Mendez (1907-1995), the former Bishop of Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Both were in advanced age when they consecrated the bishops for Traditionalists. Abp. Thuc turned 84 in 1981 when he consecrated Bishops Guerard des Lauriers, Carmona, and Zamora. Bishop Mendez was 86 when he consecrated Bishop Clarence Kelly for the SSPV, and the bishop had recently recovered from a stroke.
The first accusation against them both is that they were senile, and didn't understand what they were doing. Furthermore, Abp. Thuc had consecrated the "seers" of the phony Palmar de Troya fiasco in Spain back in 1976. Naturally, only someone "crazy" would do such a thing. It has been alleged that Bp. Mendez did some strange things--like claim that he was wearing lay clothes because "the mob was after him." He too, therefore, is "crazy."
As we have seen, the Church sets a low bar, not a high one, in what is necessary for a sacramental intention. In order for the consecrations to be declared invalid due to senility, it would mean that Bps. Thuc and Mendez were so "out of it" that they didn't know what they were doing, and had no intention to do it while performing an episcopal consecration. There are numerous photos and witnesses that attest to the fact that both bishops were able to navigate the difficult, hours-long consecration ceremony and were able to pose for pictures. These are hardly the actions of someone who has tragically gone the way of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, who had no idea who he even was towards the end of his life.
|Abp. Thuc during the complex consecration ceremony of the great Dominican theologian M. Guerard des Lauriers|
|Magazine put out by SSPV showing Bp Mendez sitting next to the newly consecrated Bp. Kelly. Inside are several up close pictures of the bishop consecrating Clarence Kelly with the assisting priests.|
As to charges of insanity, in the case of Abp. Thuc, it was the SSPX that suggested to someone involved with the "seers" to ask Abp. Thuc to come and check out the alleged apparitions. The fact that Abp. Lefebvre did not dismiss it, and that Abp. Thuc wanted the Great Apostasy to end, can easily account for why he did something rash and foolish. Being "rash and foolish" does not equate to insanity. A proper medical authority would have to certify someone as habitually insane or suffering dementia in order to overcome a presumption of proper intention. That was never done. Abp. Thuc, going back and forth to the Modernist Vatican, makes him fickle in a time of complete confusion, not insane or unable to maintain the minimum intention for a valid sacrament.
The remark by Bp. Mendez about the mob following him, takes on a whole new meaning when put in proper context. He was not as brave as a prelate should be. He would not come out publicly for the faith as did Bishop Kurz, or Abp. Lefebvre. Therefore, he would often wear street clothes when with the SSPV. When someone asked him why he wasn't wearing his clerical garb, he responded, "The mob is out to get me, and I don't want them to find me." It was sarcastic humor, not insanity, that engendered the remark.
Masons and "I've Got A Bad Feeling About This"
There is one more serious charge that needs to be answered. Since I wrote about it before at length (see my two posts cited at the beginning of this post), I will be brief. No one (to the best of my knowledge and belief) calls into question the mental state of Archbishop Lefebvre. However, the Cardinal-Bishop who ordained him a priest, and later consecrated him a bishop, Archille Lienart, was a Freemason. The evidence for his Masonic membership is hardly conclusive, but ad aguendo, I will concede he was a Mason.
There are those who assert that since Masons are the sworn enemies of the Church, Masonic clerics must withhold their intention and make the sacraments invalid. To demonstrate someone has withheld the proper intention, "...one must prove the existence of a positive will that excludes [the sacrament]." (See Courtemanche, The Total Simulation of Matrimonial Consent, , pg. 18). Such was the case in South America of a bishop who was strongly prejudiced against ordaining native [pueblo nativos] clergy. On his deathbed he confessed that he withheld his intention on those natives. The priest refused absolution unless the bishop agreed and gave permission for this to be told to the proper authorities. The native priests were re-ordained but NOT non-native priests. "The Church, recognizing that She can never know the internal intention of the minister, assumes it is the same as his external intention (the intention which the traditional rite provides by its very wording), unless he himself informs the Church otherwise." (See Coomaraswamy, The Problems with the New Sacraments, pg. 11 and footnote 19; words in parenthesis in original).
It is an established fact that Cardinal Rampolla was a high ranking Freemason. None of his consecrations or ordinations were repeated. There were bishops consecrated during the French Revolution by Masonic bishops, and they were received back as bishops, not subject to absolute or conditional consecration. The Church considers them all valid. Roncalli ("Pope" John XIII) was most probably a Freemason, yet the priests and bishops that derive their orders from him (including Cardinal Ottaviani) are not called into question.
Those who assert Masons withhold their intention (have a "positive contrary intention" by willing "I do not intend to ordain [or consecrate] this man" while performing the ceremony) are setting up an opposite presumption from the Church, i.e., your sacraments are invalid, unless proven otherwise.If the Church tells us we must presume validity, we must do so. There is no "Masonic exception" to the rule. Remember that there is a possibility that any sacrament could be invalid, but we must not fear it because we have moral certainty. If Masonic membership makes sacraments doubtful, what about Modernists and Communists? They are the sworn enemies of the Church as well, yet we would have to consider virtually every sacrament invalid based on Modernism! (The number of Modernists who came out at Vatican II was staggering).
The objection to such bishops is not based on theology and the practice of the Church, but rather, "I've got a bad feeling about this situation." That does not suffice. Notice that even the bishop who admitted to withholding his intention on native clergy, did not state he did have the intention for non-native clergy. Did the Church ordain all of the priests "just to be safe"? No! It was presumed valid.
The renewed attacks on Traditionalist clergy orders are unfounded. Traditional Catholic theology tells us we have no reason to doubt the orders that derive from Abp. Thuc, Abp. Lefebvre, and Bp. Mendez. For those who would like to read more about the consecrations of Abp. Thuc in-depth, please go to the 101 page tome written by Mr. Mario Derksen at thucbishops.com. He quotes many of the same theologians as I do in this post, but goes into much greater (and better) detail, with many more citations to relevant sources.
Finally, I would like to end with this quote from theologian DeSalvo, "Christ promised that He would be with His Church until the end of the world. Although men cannot be metaphysically certain of having received the sacraments, all may, according to common sense, depend upon the fidelity of Christ's ministers in the administration of the sacraments, and according to faith rely upon the Indefectibility of the Church and her ministers as a body." (See The Dogmatic Theology on the Intention of the Minister in the Confection of the Sacraments, , pg. 106).