However, there are times when emergency circumstances necessitate a non-expert to weigh in. I'm a former New York City science teacher and current lawyer, so why am I writing a blog on theology? In the absence of the Great Apostasy, I wouldn't be; and shouldn't be. There is no hierarchy with Ordinary jurisdiction, no pope, and no approved theologians and canonists. The burden of trying to make our Catholic way the best we can falls (by necessity) on Traditionalist clergy and the laity. If we ever get a real pope again, I will first thank Almighty God, and then (happily) deactivate this blog, as it is no longer necessary.
There are also times when a person's advice and/or actions are just so egregiously wrong, they should never be consulted ever again. This applies even to qualified experts. If a surgeon leaves a scalpel inside a patient's body and they die as a result, they should never be allowed to practice medicine again. Now, consider the following scenario:
A married laywoman decides to end the state of sedevacante by "electing a new pope." She was a Home Aloner, convinced all Traditionalists were "evil schismatics and heretics," so she deprived herself of the Mass and Sacraments. The leading "papal contender" was a former Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) seminarian, David Bawden (b.1959), who was expelled after approximately two years of study in 1978. This female Home Aloner and self-professed "theologian," decided to "call a conclave." Bawden allegedly contacted all Traditionalists to attend his conclave, which was held on July 16, 1990. How someone could claim to have attempted to contact all Traditionalists in an age before computers is baffling. As a result, six people attended near his parents' Kansas farmhouse; Bawden's mother and father, two nice neighbors who were husband and wife, the "female theologian," and Bawden himself. David Bawden was then "elected" as "Pope Michael," and at 61 (as of this year) still lives with his mommy on the farm.
According to various sources, Bawden is believed to have anywhere from 30 to 100 followers worldwide. He has never held a real job. The female "theologian" later abandoned and denounced the very "pope" she helped to "elect," and is back Home Alone. In the meantime, there are between 30 to 100 people following this very same false "pope," thereby putting their salvation in danger. Do you think this woman should ever write about theological matters again?
Neither do I. Unfortunately, Mrs. Teresa Stanfill Benns, the "theologian" in question, remains undaunted. She runs a website entitled Betrayed Catholics (betrayedcatholics.com) in which she tries to convince Traditionalists to abandon their churches and chapels and remain under a self-imposed "spiritual quarantine." Upon inspection, the only thing diseased is her theological writing. She's peddling a new book, and has written a series of posts explaining why Traditionalists are not the remnant Church. In this post, I will expose the flaws in her "research" wherein she calls into question the validity of any/all ordinations and consecrations performed by Bp. Thuc and Abp. Lefebvre. Although she does not mention Bp. Mendez, since Bishop Kelly derives his priestly orders from Abp. Lefebvre, she casts the same specious "doubt" on his orders, and thereby the good priests and bishops ordained/consecrated by him for the Society of St. Pius V (SSPV).
Please read her website articles which I cite because I have respected her decision of not wanting to have any of her materials used elsewhere without permission. Hence, I have merely stated her arguments using my own words, without quoting anything. By reading her work you can check that my representation of her arguments is accurate.
Please note that for sake of brevity, I sometimes refer to Bp. Thuc as simply "Thuc," and Abp. Lefebvre as merely "Lefebvre." This is in no way to be interpreted as a lack of due respect for these holy clerics and their proper titles.
The Invalid Case For Dubious Orders
On Benns' website, there is an article entitled "A Comparison of Anglican and Traditionalist 'Orders.'" You may read it in full at her above referenced site. She contends that the defects mentioned against Anglican Orders hold for Traditionalists. Do they really? Here are her major reasons for attacking Lefebvre and Thuc.
1. Abp. Lefebvre's ordaining and consecrating bishop was a Freemason and most probably withheld the intention necessary to validly confer Holy Orders. I've dealt with this canard in previous posts, so I will be as brief as possible and restate the main points I wrote prior.
"A person who has correctly and seriously used the requisite matter and form to effect and confer a sacrament is presumed for that very reason to have intended to do what the Church does." (Papal Bull Apostolicae Curae --the very document Benns uses to attack the orders of Lefebvre).
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 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).
It is alleged that the Cardinal-Bishop who ordained Marcel Lefebvre 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).
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. Thankfully, it is Church teaching and not Mrs. Benns' bad feelings that control the principles of sacramental theology.
Wrong Ideas about the Intention to Confer a Sacrament
Benns also has a wrong idea as to what constitutes a proper intention. Benns asks for "which Church" did Thuc and Lefebvre consecrate these men? She claims neither Traditionalism nor the Vatican II sect is the True Church because an "antipope" rules in Rome and the Traditionalist Church is "headless." First, none of the heretics from Roncalli to Bergoglio is (strictly speaking) an antipope for that presumes a real pope against which they claim the papacy for themselves. Even the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913 will tell you an antipope is "A false claimant of the Holy See in opposition to a pontiff canonically elected." (See https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01582a.htm). So, unless she's gone back to "Pope" Michael at the Kansas farm, she's using imprecise terminology. Bergoglio is a false pope.
Second, the True Church is never "headless" (in the sense of being unable to function) just because it is without a living pope on the throne. If that were the case, each time a pope died, the Church would be headless and no sacraments could be conferred until the new pope is elected. According to theologian Dorsch:
The Church therefore is a society that is essentially monarchical. But this does not prevent the Church, for a short time after the death of a pope, OR EVEN FOR MANY YEARS, from remaining deprived of her head. [vel etiam per plures annos capite suo destituta manet]. Her monarchical form also remains intact in this state.…
Thus the Church is then indeed a headless body.… Her monarchical form of government remains, though then in a different way — that is, it remains incomplete and to be completed. The ordering of the whole to submission to her Primate is present, even though actual submission is not…
For this reason, the See of Rome is rightly said to remain after the person sitting in it has died — for the See of Rome consists essentially in the rights of the Primate.
These rights are an essential and necessary element of the Church. With them, moreover, the Primacy then continues, at least morally. The perennial physical presence of the person of the head, however, [perennitas autem physica personis principis] is not so strictly necessary." (de Ecclesia 2:196–7; Emphasis mine)
According to theologian Salaverri, instead of being a "primary foundation… without which the Church could not exist," the pope is a "secondary foundation," "ministerial," who exercises his power as someone else’s (Christ’s) representative. (See De Ecclesia 1:448)
Third, the minister of a sacrament only needs to intend to do what the Church does, not intend to do what the Church intends.
This is the teaching of Pope Leo XIII in his pronouncement on Anglican orders: "Now, if a person has seriously and duly used the proper matter and form for performing or administering a sacrament, he is by that very fact presumed to have intended to do what the Church does.” (Bull Apostolicae Curae, September 13, 1896; Emphasis mine)
The theologian Leeming says this passage 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." (Leeming, Principles of Sacramental Theology , 476, 482.)
According to theologian Many, heresy, or even total apostasy from the faith on the part of the ordaining bishop, does not harm this sufficient intention, because intention is an act of the will.
"Error in faith, or even total disbelief, does not harm this intention; for concepts of the intellect have nothing in common with an act of the will." (S. Many, Praelectiones de Sacra Ordinatione , 586.)
2. The Three-prong Attack Against Bp. Thuc
Benns does not question either Bp. Thuc's ordination or consecration, unlike her attack on Archbishop Lefebvre. Of course, there's the senility charge which she doesn't harp on, but, we are told, Thuc's consecrations were invalid because:
(a) He was a member of the Vatican II sect at the time of the consecrations in 1981
False. Bp. Thuc was confused about the person of the pope, and was trying to figure out the situation in the Church. He reconciled with Montini after the Palmar de Troya fiasco. Secondly, by 1981 he was certain about sedevacantism, otherwise why would he consecrate two theologians (des Lauriers and Carmona) who were known to reject the papal claims of Wojtyla? He rejected the heresies of Vatican II and the papal pretender. He was a member "on paper" only, much like Abp. Levebvre who was R&R prior to his 1988 "excommunication." According to the testimony of Fr. Noel Barbara, a priest who once opposed Bp. Thuc, and solemnly, publicly recanted that opposition after interacting with him, Fr. Barbara had this to say about Bp. Thuc just prior to the 1981 Consecrations:
"From all that I know about the matter, it is clear that up to the time of the consecrations of which I am speaking [in 1981], Archbishop Ngo Dinh Thuc:
- never professed any error with regard to the faith which would make him a heretic;
- has never been guilty of schism by contesting the universal jurisdiction of the pope;
- has never incurred any censures of the law for communicatio in divinis cum acatholicis (worshiping with non-Catholics); whether he be good or bad, he was a bishop of the Holy Roman Catholic Church when he conferred the Episcopacy on R. P. Guerard des Lauriers and on Fathers Carmona and Zamora.
(b) Bp. Thuc used the invalid Pauline Rite of Consecration.
False. In his letter defending the attacks on his episcopal consecration, the eminent theologian Moises Carmona wrote a letter dated May 18, 1982, wherein he states:
On our return to Mexico, the attacks began. Some said, without any foundation, that our consecrations were invalid because we were consecrated with the new rite; others, more serious, said that, based on Canons 953 and 2370, the consecrations were valid but illicit, and that consequently we were suspended. (See http://www.cmri.org/carmona.html; Emphasis mine). For all consecrations he ever carried out, Bp. Thuc only used the Traditional Rite, and this is attested to by all witnesses. Benns makes the assertion that the Pauline Rite was used with no evidence to support such a claim.
N.B. Bp. Peter Thuc was made archbishop on November 24, 1960 by Roncalli, a false pope. He really only has the proper designation of bishop. However, I see nothing wrong with allowing him that title since in 1960 no heresy had yet been professed and nearly everyone thought Roncalli was legitimate at the time. I see nothing wrong with those who wish to call him Archbishop Thuc (as Bp. Carmona does in his letter) out of respect and common error at the time the title was bestowed. I have many times referred to him as "archbishop" also.---Introibo
(c) Thuc Used Invalid Matter Regarding the Oil for the Consecration
This falls under the "You gotta be kidding me" category. Benns opines (without proof) that the oil used in the episcopal consecrations were most likely provided and blessed by a Vatican II sect minister. Was she there? How does she know the good bishop didn't obtain and consecrate the oil himself? Nevertheless, it doesn't make a dime's worth of difference because oil (consecrated or not) is not the matter of the sacrament and has no effect on validity. Pope Pius XII, in his Apostolic Constitution Sacramentum Ordinis of 1947 solemnly settled the question as to what, exactly, constitutes valid matter and form for the orders of deacon, priest and bishop. His Holiness decreed in para. #4: "Wherefore, after invoking the divine light, We of Our Apostolic Authority and from certain knowledge declare, and as far as may be necessary decree and provide: that the matter, and the only matter, of the Sacred Orders of the Diaconate, the Priesthood, and the Episcopacy is the imposition of hands..." (Emphasis mine). The matter, and the only matter, is the imposition of hands, not oil. If she meant something different (e.g., perhaps that the oil was integral to the Rite and if defective it somehow calls the rest of the Rite into question; which is false anyway) she certainly was far from clear. Again, there is only her speculation (absent any proof) that the oil was not properly consecrated and used.
A Brief Remark on Thuc's Alleged "Senility"
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 Bp. Thuc was so "out of it" that he didn't know what he was 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 Bp. Thuc was able to navigate the difficult, hours-long consecration ceremony and was 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.
Signatories at Vatican II
Benns then attacks both bishops because they signed the documents of Vatican II. Since they signed the documents they were "heretics" and "outside the Church." Therefore, they cannot be presumed to have valid sacraments. As demonstrated above, as long as the Catholic Rite is used (which it always was), the intention is presumed correct. Were Lefebvre and Thuc heretics? No. The documents were signed under the appearance of coming from legitimate Church authority, and the "pope" asked them to sign. The essence of heresy is denial of a dogma with stubborn resistance to the Church's authority. The bishops at Vatican II were in a unique situation of having a false pope, and many didn't want to even contemplate such an event. After the heresy became apparent when the bishops went home after the Council, almost all did accept it.
However, suppose, ad arguendo, they were heretics. They weren't declared heretics, for by what authority could they be declared such? Sedevacantist author Mr. John Daly, has done a masterful analysis of theologian De Lugo's teaching on undeclared heretics:
This teaching is supported by Pope Martin V's Ad Evitanda Scandala which expressly allows communion with excommunicates until they have been condemned by the Church. Naturally this does not apply to what is certainly forbidden by divine law – as would be participation in a rite which itself contained heresy or which exposed oneself or others to grave scandal.
It should be noted that there has been no noteworthy change in ecclesiastical law on communication in sacris since de Lugo wrote. The law forbidding communicatio in sacris with non-Catholics remains in force (Canon 1258). And the law authorizing the reception of the sacraments from uncondemned excommunicates (Canon 2261) remains in force also. (Commenting on "Communication in Religious Rites with Heretics"--Cardinal De Lugo, Tractatus de Virtute Fidei Divinae: Disputatio XXII, Sectio 1)
Benns' Dishonest and Shoddy "Research"
In another related article on her website, "Additional proofs Traditional 'clergy' cannot function," Benns claims that Canon 2261, referenced by Mr. Daly, does not apply to schismatics, and instead of electing a pope (!) Thuc and Lefebvre created their own sect. Benns uses lots of quotes from theologian Szal to prove you can never approach schismatics for the Sacraments. (Please read the article if you want to see the full argument). I bring this up because Benns, knowing that most of her readers don't have access to these theological works, will not check her citations, and simply take her word for what it says.
On page 62 of theologian Szal's work, The Communication of Catholics with Schismatics, , we read, "There are times when the Church does permit the faithful to receive the Sacraments from a schismatical minister, but when such a permission is granted a necessary condition is set, namely, that the Sacraments be administered according to the rite of the Church." (Emphasis mine). That would certainly apply to Traditionalists wouldn't it, Mrs. Benns?
On pg. 92, theologian Szal references the Catholics in the East where there are almost exclusively schismatics and not Catholic clergy. He writes, "It is very probable that a Catholic may find himself in a situation which implies the guilt of mortal sin in his soul and will not have the opportunity of going to confession to a Catholic priest for two or three months. He is in the state of mortal sin, and his conscience is troubled. He tries to make an Act of Perfect Contrition, but he cannot satisfy his conscience in this matter. In this case, if there were no scandal or danger of perversion, such a person could probably confess his sins to a schismatic priest and receive absolution in order that he would no longer remain in the state of mortal sin." (Emphasis mine). Even doubt about jurisdiction does not prevent him from going. Would this not apply to Traditionalist clergy today, Mrs. Benns? She reveals a lot by what she omits.
Teresa Benns is the one betraying Catholics and Our Lord, not Traditionalists who are the remnant Catholics in this time of the Great Apostasy. Between 30 to 100 people are following some deluded man in Kansas as "pope" because of Mrs. Benns holding a farmhouse "conclave" based on her "theological research." She disavows the very fictitious "pope" she created, goes back to being Home Alone, and wants to sell a book on her nonsensical ideas. Her "scholarship" is both shoddy and dishonest. She is doing Satan's work in trying to keep Traditionalists away from the Mass and Sacraments; a "spiritual lock-down" with consequences to the soul more deadly than COVID-19 when you stay home alone. Someone who "elects" a false pope on farm should pray for God's forgiveness and never attempt to expound on theological matters ever again.
In her current writing, I have demonstrated Benns:
In her current writing, I have demonstrated Benns:
- makes a material false statement regarding Thuc's alleged use of the Pauline Rite
- assumes facts not in evidence (the oil for consecration was made by a Vatican II sect minister)
- has an demonstrably false idea regarding sacramental intention
- has a confused and/or erroneous idea about oil and its role as matter in Holy Orders
- cherry-picks citations to theologian Szal to "prove" her preconceived notions
- makes no analysis between declared and undeclared heretics
Benns has claimed that credibility is important. I agree. Too bad Mrs. Benns doesn't have any.