Traditionalism is controversial by nature. Trying to wake people up to the fact that Jorge Bergoglio is not really the pope will spark no little amount of contention. Add to this the fact that, without a pope, there are issues within Traditionalism which cannot be resolved since there is no one who can give a final and binding decision. "Roma Locuta Est, Causa Finita Est" (i.e. "Rome has spoken, the matter is concluded") is a thing of the past in a state of sedevacante. I don't believe in controversy for the sake of controversy itself. Unfortunately, there are those who do, and they relish attacking Traditionalist priests and bishops.These are not intellectual disagreements; instead they attack their character. True priests and bishops are not above reproach, and we must call them out on any major flaws so that a repeat of the 1950s " a cleric can do no wrong" mentality never again holds sway.
However, to publicly attack a Traditionalist priest or bishop's orders without serious justification is not merely calumny, but a grave injustice to those Traditionalist Catholics who fearing that these priests and bishops may not be valid clergy, stay away from the sacraments. This is exactly what happened at the blog Pistrina Liturgica (hereinafter "PL"). For a detailed summary, please see my posts of 4/22/13, 6/8/13, 7/14/13, and 10/19/13. In short summation, the webmaster, who goes by the moniker "The Reader," possesses a near pathological hatred for Fr. Anthony Cekada and Bishop Daniel Dolan, whom he constantly refers to as "One Hand Dan." The reason? It is alleged that when Bishop Dolan was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Lefevre in the 1970's, he only imposed one hand on his head instead of two. Fr. Dolan was one of the nine priests who broke away from the Society of St. Pius X to found the Society of St Pius V in 1983. After Fr. Dolan left the SSPV in 1989 over the issue of the Thuc consecrations, the remaining clergy in the SSPV sent a letter to him asking him to refrain from all further priestly functions because the Archbishop's use of only one hand instead of two made his ordination "dubious." (Interestingly, they never brought this point up when he was with them, only after he left!). In addition to my posts mentioned above, Fr Cekada published a refutation of the idea that ordination with one hand was dubious in his article entitled "The Validity of Ordination Conferred with One Hand." It can be found at traditionalmass.org.
After one of my readers sent a comment about the fact PL was now sending out a pamphlet, in Q & A format, attacking his orders yet again, I went on PL and began asking in the comments for the names of the witnesses of this alleged one hand ordination. I wouldn't give up after a massive back and forth of trying to dodge my inquiry. Without at least one witness, whose identity is known and has signed a sworn statement, the entire discussion about the validity of priestly ordination conferred with one hand becomes moot. Catholic theology DEMANDS that there is a presumption the rite was validly and correctly performed, whenever a bishop ordains a man to the priesthood. “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.) That means everything was done correctly--matter, form, and intention. Those who wish to impugn the validity of orders have the burden to show, with credible evidence that raises a reasonable doubt, that matter, form, or intention was lacking. This they have not done.
It turns out The Reader's lackey, "The Watcher" has a blog of his own, also bashing Bp. Dolan and Fr. Cekada entitled The Lay Pulpit (hereinafter "LP"). It was brought to my attention that in his post of 1/3/15, LP attacked me and attempted to defend PL's assertion about one handed ordinations. Neither one is able to grasp the relatively simple concept of "having the burden of proof." They seek to hurt Bp. Dolan by casting doubt on his orders, and by extension, the orders of any priest he ordains. This keeps good people away from the sacraments and hurts souls. I will reprint "The Watcher's" post from 1/3/15 entitled "A Moot Point" in red and will respond to each section below it without red color.
A recent Pistrina Liturgica article -- in addition to a whole series of earlier ones -- has dealt with the doubts about Daniel Dolan’s one-handed ordination. In those earlier articles, Pistrina related how, after Dolan’s dubious ordination, nine priests (one-time colleagues of his) urged him to get those doubts resolved before continuing with his priestly duties, after which he responded by commissioning Anthony Cekada to write a tract arguing the validity of one-handed ordinations (which Pistrina then subsequently totally disproved and discredited).
As you will see in my posts listed above, PL hardly can be said to have "totally disproved and discredited" anything. None of the nine priests who signed the letter were at the ordination. One of them, Fr. Joseph Greenwell, was 12 years old in 1976 and living in Kentucky. He even admitted he signed the letter because Fr (now Bp.) Kelly simply told him to do so. They state, as a matter of fact, that a one-handed ordination took place with no personal knowledge and they name no witnesses. The doubt exists only in the imagination.
This recent article dealt specifically with a contention by one of Dolan’s supporters that there was an “eye witness” who swore “before God” that Dannie was ordained with two hands, not one. The problem is that this “eye witness” came forward to make his claim thirty-five years after the ordination – long after those nine priests had written their letter to Dolan. Why, one might ask, didn’t he come forward then? Pistrina pointed out this and several other problems with this “witness’s” account (which are detailed in the article).
Bp. Dolan doesn't need a witness, HE does not carry the burden of proof because Abp. Lefebvre enjoys the presumption of validity under Church Law: The Principle:
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.)
Nevertheless, Bp. Dolan has a known, sworn witness that the ordination was done properly according to the rubrics. PL has nothing but conjecture from nine priests who weren't there and have no witnesses. PL claims to have witnesses (or witness, singular, depending on what things he wrote at different times) yet refuses to name them (or him/her). So what proof of a one handed ordination does PL have, ladies and gentlemen? None.
In response to this article, one of Dolan and Cekada’s supporters – one “Introibo” – wrote in as a “commenter” to challenge what Pistrina had to say. Introibo started by saying that the nine priests’ testimony itself was fourteen years after the ordination, making it subject to doubt as well (strangely, though, he did not raise the same objection about his “witness’s” words, which were thirty-five years after the fact). In the ensuing marathon of comments, Introibo, who happens to be a New York lawyer, went on to claim that he had a hard-and-fast witness, whereas Pistrina had none; and, being a lawyer, he then went on to claim that Pistrina had “no case” at all. After repeated calls by Introibo for Pistrina to produce a “witness,” Pistrina responded by saying that there were witnesses to the one-handed ordination, but that they do not, for their own private reasons, wish to be identified – and hence, Pistrina is not at liberty to reveal their names. Whereupon, Introibo, being a lawyer, seized upon this to contend (since Pistrina could not produce their names) that they did not exist -- and that Pistrina was lying about them (and everything else).
In one paragraph, The Watcher goes out of his way to state that I'm a lawyer no less than three times. While the term "lawyer" is a negative appellation for many, what I believe he's trying to accomplish is to show that I have some special training or specialized ideas as to what constitutes a "witness" and proof. In this case, it's not a matter of training,just simple common sense based on Church teaching. To wit:
- It's plain logic that if you can impugn the reliability of a witness based on the length of time that passes between the event and his testimony, the fourteen years that passed between the ordination and the priests' letter make it as unreliable as the statement from the witness thirty-five years after the fact.
- Bp. Dolan's witness was actually there at the 1976 ordination. The nine priests were not there and never even claimed to have any first hand witnesses. Which would you consider more reliable; a sworn statement from someone who was there at the event 35 years ago, or a letter written by nine priests 14 years after the fact and based on hearsay?
- I didn't raise any doubt about Bp. Dolan's witness because he doesn't even need one. I never claimed "I" had a "hard and fast witness." No witness is necessary because under Church Law the burden of proof is on the one seeking to cast doubt upon the validity of the sacrament.
- If there were truly witnesses to a one-handed ordination, and they believed that this could raise doubt as to the validity of the sacrament, they have a grave duty in justice to make what they saw public. It would be sinful to withhold such information regarding validity when the salvation of souls could literally hang in the balance. Yet, for "private reasons" they will refuse to be identified. How convenient! All of them have compelling "private reasons" that surpass the duty to save souls! Remember that "Salus Animarum Est Suprema Lex" ("The salavtion of souls is the supreme law").
- In the civil law, you have a Constitutional right to both know and confront any/all witnesses against you. The Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that "in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right…to be confronted with the witnesses against him." In the absence of such confrontation, the witnesses testimony will be considered non-existent. In the instant case, we don't even know if such witnesses are real, let alone confronting them. The burden of proof must be high in Church Law as in criminal cases. Why? Can you imagine the bedlam if the Church allowed anyone who claimed without proof that "someone saw something" to call into question the validity of a sacrament? True Catholics must be morally certain that the sacraments they receive will be valid, unless there is credible evidence to the contrary. How credible are nameless, faceless "witnesses" to you? There's more credibility in the man on the old Art Bell show who claims reptilian aliens in human form are controlling the world--- and he has witnesses--- but they can't speak or the aliens will kill them.
What Introibo failed to realize (or did not want to realize) is that there was no mention of such “witnesses” in the original Pistrina article – because there was no need to. No such “witness” was necessary to prove doubt. The fact that nine priests wrote to Dolan about his ordination being doubtful (and urging him to do something about it) was proof enough that a doubt existed. And the Pistrina article addressed that doubt. Another problem with Introibo’s “witness” is that he was the only one to make such an affirmation. That, coupled with his Johnny-come-lately timing and his over-the-top rhetoric, strongly hints that it was braggadocio, not fact – and it is our belief that, one day, this “witness” will suffer much embarrassment for having done this bit of damage control for Dannie.
The fact that nine priests wrote a letter does nothing to give rise to doubt and overcome the presumption of validity---that everything was done correctly---enjoyed by Abp. Lefebvre. On what evidence is this doubt based? There is no evidence. None of them were there. None of them even claimed to have witnesses. If those same nine priests were to sign a letter stating that Elvis Presley was alive, does this induce a "doubt" as to Mr. Presley's death? Obviously not. The doubt must be reasonable, i.e. based on credible evidence. There is no such credible evidence backing up the letter of the priests. Secondly, alleged problems with Bp. Dolan's witness don't matter. The bishop is the one who needs no witness, because the Law of the Church clearly places the burden of proof on PL. The Watcher would reverse the burden of proof, contrary to Church teaching.
It must too be pointed out out that Pistrina never stated that Dolan’s ordination was invalid (although Introibo and other “anonymous” commenters claimed it did); it only said that, since the ordination’s validity was in doubt, Dolan should take the safe path of removing that doubt by undergoing conditional ordination (as the Church has always prescribed in such cases). Dolan, of course, did NOT take that path, but instead commissioned Anthony Cekada to write his lengthy tract “proving” the validity of one-handed orders – which, of, course, it did NOT. It was a totally flawed mish-mash of mistranslation, faulty logic, and misquoting of official papal teaching; in short, it was a pack of lies. But for some number of years, Cekada’s error-filled “explanation” was accepted by everyone (including those nine priest who had written that letter to Dolan). But persistent doubts about it kept surfacing. Then one day, a year or so ago, this same Introibo – because he was irked by Pistrina’s often referring to Dolan as “one-hand Dan” (a moniker, by the way, coined by one of Dolan’s former colleagues), challenged Pistrina to prove that one-handed ordination is doubtful.
Sorry, but claiming that someone's orders are doubtful has no difference in practice from claiming invalidity. The result is the same: you must stay away from those putative sacraments. If there is a priest known to be invalid (ordained in the Vatican II sect), you must stay away from him if he converts until he has been validly ordained in the Traditional Rite of the Church. What if he was ordained in the Traditional Rite, but it is reported by many known witnesses declaring under oath that the bishop garbled the words of the preface containing the form? He would be dubiously ordained. You must stay away from him unless/until the ordination is conditionally repeated because he might not be a priest. You cannot risk idolatry by worshiping what might be mere bread. Therefore, any semantics about "doubtful" vs. "invalid" is disingenuous.
Second, without positive doubt based on credible evidence the ceremony is presumed valid and there is no "safer course." Third, read Fr. Cekada's monograph as well as my posts. The case for validity of one-handed ordinations is a far cry from "a pack of lies." The same cannot be said for PL and LP.
Well, Pistrina did just that – and in a thorough and decisive way. And it is ironic (and appropriate) that it was Introibo, who, in issuing this unsolicited challenge, tried to discredit Pistrina and conversely vindicate his hero Dannie -- but accomplished just the opposite. And it is now doubly ironic (and understandable) that this same Introibo – with his comments on the recent Pistrina article (and a subsequent article, by the way) – has come forward once again to argue that this Johnny-come-lately “witness” is, nevertheless, a witness (and that Pistrina had failed to produce one). But his point is moot – and for more reasons than one.
- PL can't even get to first base by overcoming the presumption of validity, let alone prove one-handed ordination invalid in a "thorough and decisive" way.
- I have no "hero" in Bp. Dolan--or any other cleric. I follow the evidence where it leads. PL and LP have none. For the record, I never even met Bp. Dolan.
- The whole debate about one-handed ordinations being doubtful or not is moot! If you can't prove a one-handed ordination happened--or it is more likely than not to have happened--Church Law (and common sense) tell us it didn't happen.
First off, as Pistrina has tried (in its numerous responses to him) to explain to him over and over again that the issue is NOT about identifying or producing “witnesses” (and certainly not about claiming that Dolan’s ordination was invalid), but only about showing that there was doubt about that validity – enough doubt to prompt not only a letter from nine priests (including Dannie’s buddy Don Sanborn), but also a lengthy (and flawed) response (by Anthony Cekada) to that letter -- both of which are more than ample evidence of that doubt. The vast majority of traditional clergy, then and now, understands that there was and continues to be doubt (and now so more than ever). And, despite Introibo’s contention that it did not fit the legal definition of reasonable doubt, it was “reasonable” enough for those nine priests (as it is for the vast majority of traditional clerics) – and definitely genuine. And Introibo’s unceasing efforts to downplay or de-legitimize that doubt only betray his bias – and an ulterior motive for saying what he did.
- It is about witnesses to overcome the presumption of validity Apb. Lefebvre enjoys and introduce reasonable doubt, thus carrying your burden of proof under Church teaching.
- Nine priests had no problem with Bp. Dolan from 1976 until 1990, the year after he broke with them.
- The nine priests saw nothing because they were not there. They list no witnesses nor did they ever claim to have any.
- People can doubt anything. There are people that doubt the moon landing occurred. You can doubt the death of Elvis, and doubt the Earth is round. None of these doubts is REASONABLE, because they are assertions unsupported by credible evidence. If, in pre-Vatican II days, you went to the Holy Office and told the Cardinals there assembled that you doubted a cleric's ordination was valid because a one-handed ordination took place (based on alleged testimony from secret witnesses), what do you think they would do? Throw you out, lecture you on calumny and gossip, and admonish you for wasting their time!
- Notice the phrases "vast majority of traditional clerics" (like whom?) and "definitely genuine" (according to what established facts in evidence)?
- I have a definite bias against cretins who keep people away from the sacraments by impugning a cleric's orders based on no evidence
Secondly, Introibo’s point is moot because the really salient point about all of this is not so much the doubt about those orders, but Dolan’s being too ARROGANT to remove that doubt – by taking the safe, prudent course of getting conditionally ordained. Everything else is moot. Everything else is irrelevant. Conditional ordination was (and still is) the obvious (and common sense) thing to do. It would have been so easy, so painless. Had he done it, it would have displayed so much humility and good will on his part – and, in a single stroke, it would have put an end to all doubts about his orders. But to do so requires humility and charity – in both of which Dolan is sorely lacking. So, in lieu of taking that quick, easy step, he instead had his buddy Tony compose a lengthy (and now totally discredited) treatise arguing the validity of one-handed orders -- which makes one wonder why he went to all that trouble to avoid a simple fix.
Why "remove" a doubt that doesn't exist? You mean every time some whacky character says he doubts a sacrament was valid, it must be repeated? That's a sacrilege and would scandalize (unnecessarily) those good Traditionalists that went to Bp. Dolan and his priests, that perhaps the sacraments they received were null and void. It has nothing to do with a lack of humility and everything to do with good judgement not to "fix" something that was never "broken" in the first place! "Common sense" is something to which PL and LP are strangers. For the record, Fr. Cekada, who was present at the 1976 ordinations has affirmed since the letter of 1990 that two hands were used, and Bp. Dolan also has denied one hand was used.
Please do not be afraid to avail yourself of the sacraments from Bp. Dolan or the priests he ordains based on some calumnious "doubt." At the blogs The Lay Pulpit and Pistrina Liturgica, you'll find a "Watcher" and a "Reader." Unfortunately, you'll search in vain for a "Thinker" or a "Truth Teller."