Validity of the Sacraments Reformed by Paul VI
Article published in Le Sel de la Terre 124, Spring 2033
Dominicans of Avrillé
On June 30, 1988, in his episcopal consecration sermon, Archbishop Lefebvre pronounced these words:
“All these seminarians here present, if tomorrow the good Lord calls me back, from whom will they receive the sacrament of Holy Orders? Conciliar bishops whose sacraments are all dubious because we don’t know exactly what their intentions are? This is not possible. […] So I cannot in good conscience leave these seminarians orphans by disappearing without doing anything for the future.”1
These are serious remarks. They beg the question: on what grounds does Archbishop Lefebvre base his assertion that the sacraments of modernist bishops and priests are all dubious?
A letter written to an American correspondent on the following October 28 gives us some clues to the answer. Archbishop Lefebvre spoke of priests ordained according to the new rite:
“I agree with your desire to conditionally reorder these priests, and I have done so many times. All the sacraments of modernist bishops and priests are dubious now, because the rites are more and more modified and their intentions are no longer Catholic. We are in the age of the great apostasy.”2
The Danger of Changing the Law
Even if it could be shown that the changes introduced into the sacraments are a better formula in themselves, this would not justify their introduction.
Saint Thomas Aquinas notes the danger of change in any law:
The mere modification of the law is in itself a kind of detriment to the common good. The reason for this is that, to ensure the observance of laws, habituation plays a key role. […] This is why, when there is a change in the law, the force of constraint diminishes to the very extent that custom has disappeared (I-II, q. 97, a. 2).
Saint Thomas concludes that the law should only be changed in cases of “very great and obvious utility”, or “extreme necessity”. This was definitely not the case.
Here, we’re dealing with immemorial rites, and their modification necessarily introduces disorder and disquiet.
Such changes would only be beneficial if the advantages far outweighed the disadvantages.
But, in fact the modifications are disadvantageous, because they were made under the influence of modernism, introducing ambiguities and finally doubts about their validity.
Rites Have Been Modified Under the Influence of Modernism
The rites of all the sacraments have in fact been changed in an ecumenical spirit, so that they no longer clearly express what the Church intends to do in administering them. Thus, the master builder of the new Mass, Father Bugnini, wrote:
The Church has been guided by the love of souls and the desire to do everything possible to facilitate the path of union for our separated brothers and sisters, removing any stone that could constitute even the shadow of a risk of stumbling or displeasure.3
Six Protestant pastors were then invited to participate in the drafting of the new Mass. It has been argued that they were merely observers, and did not participate in the drafting. This is not true. Bishop Baume, responsible for ecumenical affairs of the Mexican bishops’ conference, in an interview published by the Detroit News on June 27, 1967, said of the pastors:
They are here not just as observers, but also as experts. They participate fully in discussions on Catholic liturgical renewal. It wouldn’t make much sense if they just listened. But they contribute.4
The resulting ambiguity is considerable. Cardinals Ottaviani (former secretary of the Holy Office) and Bacci, for example, were able to write about the new Mass:
The new Ordo Missae […] departs impressively, both overall and in detail, from the Catholic theology of the Holy Mass as formulated at the XXth session of the Council of Trent, which, in definitively fixing the “canons” of the rite, raised an insurmountable barrier against any heresy that might undermine the integrity of the mystery.5
In the newspaper Le Monde of October 3, 1984, Pastor Viot wrote, following the relative permission to celebrate the traditional Mass granted by Pope John Paul II:
The reintroduction of the Pius V Mass is much more than a matter of language: it’s a doctrinal issue of the utmost importance. Many of our ancestors in the Reformed faith, according to the Word of God, preferred to be burnt at the stake than to hear this type of Mass. Therefore, we were pleased with the decisions of Vatican II on this matter and with Rome’s firmness toward those who would not submit to the Council and continued to use a Mass that we considered contrary to the Gospel.
The result was that Protestants didn’t convert, most Catholics stopped practicing, and many of those who continued to practice now have a Protestant mentality, if they haven’t lost their faith. The same can be said of priests and bishops.
Doubtful Intentions Due to Ambiguous Rites
Before the conciliar reforms, the (subjective and difficult to discern) question of the intention of sacramental ministers was never asked. The traditional rites expressed the Church’s doctrine so clearly that the mere fact that they were used did not cast doubt on the validity of the sacraments:
When someone, in order to confer or administer a sacrament, seriously and regularly uses the required matter and form, it is considered, by this very fact, that he has manifestly wished to do what the Church does. This principle underpins the doctrine that there is a real sacrament even when it is conferred by the ministry of a heretic or a non-baptized Catholic, provided it is according to the Catholic rite.6
Saint Thomas Aquinas, examining this question, adds the following clarification: “provided that neither the minister nor the subject outwardly manifest a contrary intention” (III, q. 64, a. 8, ad 2 in fine).
Since the reformed rites express an ambiguous doctrine open to misinterpretation, there is now doubt as to the validity of their administration, insofar as the ministers, imbued with the new ecclesiology of Vatican II, may have an intention formally opposed to that of the Catholic Church. We might add that we are now 35 years on from the judgment formulated by Archbishop Lefebvre, and that the situation in the Church has deteriorated even further since then.
Even if doubt grows with time, it cannot be asserted that the Reformed sacraments are per se invalid. Archbishop Lefebvre never said this, and even fought against this conclusion, which has no theological foundation.
Let’s take a quick look at each of the seven sacraments.
The Seven Sacraments
Material and form remain unchanged.
However, the exorcisms have been abolished. This does not invalidate baptism, but it does deprive the child of the protection against the devil that the Church still deems necessary.
It is therefore necessary to complete baptisms with exorcisms, especially for children.
However, there are more and more invalid baptisms, not because the priest doesn’t have the faith – let’s repeat that – but because many priests don’t think that the rubrics must be fulfilled seriously for the sacrament to be valid: most priests no longer baptize on the forehead but on the head, but sometimes the water does not touch the skin when the hair is abundant; some say the words and ask the godmother to pour the water; others change the form by saying “we baptize you”, because they think that it is the community that baptizes (many cases have been discovered, and declared invalid by today’s Rome), etc. It has become necessary to question people coming from the conciliar Church about their baptism.
The form of the sacrament has been changed, taken from a valid Eastern rite. It’s unusual, but doesn’t change anything in terms of validity. However, there may be some doubt about the translation of these words into the vernacular. They must express the grace of the sacrament sufficiently for it to be valid. This is not always the case.
The material for the sacrament of Confirmation is olive oil, blessed by the bishop. The 1917 Code of Canon Law refers only to this oil (C. 734 § 2). Our Lord, in his agony in the Garden of Olives, sanctified these olive trees with the sweat of his blood. Moreover, olive oil is the true substance that corresponds to the character of oil. All other oils are substitutes. However, Pope Paul VI and the new Code of Canon Law (C. 847 § 1) allow the use of oils from “other plants”, which was always considered a cause of invalidity by all theologians until Vatican II:
The use of olive oil is not only an ecclesiastical precept, but is required for the value of the sacrament. Everyone teaches this. So, confirmation would be invalid if petroleum oil, walnut oil, etc. were used.7
Since we cannot know which oil has been used, it is legitimate and necessary to conditionally reconfirm those who have received confirmation in the new rite.
As the ambiguity of the new rite is extreme (see above), the number of Masses invalidated by formal opposition to the Church’s intention continues to grow. To this must be added the deficient training of future priests in the new seminaries. Archbishop Lefebvre said that even Rome today is incapable of training Catholic priests.
Instead of: ” I absolve you of your sins “, the new form (in French) is: ” I forgive you your sins “. The word “ absolve “, which means “to remit sins, to give absolution” is the correct term: to forgive is too broad, since one man can forgive another man, only God can absolve (and the priest who acts in his name). But this probably has no effect on validity, since priests who confess use the word “forgive” in the sense of “absolve”.
In addition, most conciliar priests have lost the true notion of sin, so that they confess less and less, and don’t know how to give the necessary advice. They have received no serious training in moral theology in the new seminaries.
As for the practice of collective absolutions, which became widespread after the Council, it only obtains the erasure of venial sins.
For validity, the material is the same as for confirmation: olive oil blessed by the bishop. The same remarks can be made here as above.
While the new form still signifies the strength given to the sick and the remission of sins effected by this sacrament, the liturgy of Extreme Unction has been considerably reworked. In particular, the anointing of the eyes, ears, nostrils, mouth and feet has been abolished. Only the forehead and hands remain. This does not affect validity, since anointing the forehead is sufficient (for example, in an emergency), but it does remove the significance of anointing to obtain remission of sins caused by the senses.
More serious is the now-general custom of conferring the sacrament of Extreme Unction on all elderly people in the parish or in retirement homes who are not in imminent danger of death. The 1917 Code of Canon Law states the following about this sacrament:
Extreme Unction may only be administered to the faithful who, having had the use of reason, find themselves in peril of death as a result of illness or old age (C. 940).
If there is not at least one doubt about the peril of death, the sacrament is invalidly conferred. Collective absolution would only be permissible in the event of imminent peril of death: shipwreck, soldiers mounting an assault, and so on.
For there to be matrimonial consent, the contracting parties must at least be aware that marriage is a permanent partnership between a man and a woman, which serves to procreate children (C. 1082 § 1, 1917 Code).
As it is the spouses who are the ministers of the sacrament, and no specific formula is required on their side to exchange their consents, it is sufficient that in expressing it, they intend to contract a true marriage, for it to be valid; provided, of course, that they have no impediments.
a. The new ritual for the ordination of priests
+ Changes of form
The two changes affecting the form are (in the original Latin text)8:
1. – Deleting a “ut”.
This gives: “Pour into their souls the spirit of holiness, may they obtain from you the office of second merit“. (i.e. priestly character); instead of: “Pour into their souls the spirit of holiness in order that they may obtain from you the office of second merit” (translation of the traditional formula). The new expression better expresses the power given, which is distinct from the spirit of holiness.
2. The second change consists in a dative his famulis instead of an accusative in hos famulos. Priestly grace is given to the ordinands, rather than in them. However, it should be noted that in the editions of the Roman Pontifical published by the Vatican presses (the typical 1968 edition and the second of 1990), we find the old formula “in hos famulos“, the correction being made both in the text of the Constitution Pontificalis Romani printed at the head of the Pontifical and in the texts of the prayers to be sung or recited.9
The new Latin form is almost identical to the old one, especially in the edited Pontifical, so we see no reason to doubt the validity of the form.
However, it would be necessary to verify how the ceremony is actually performed, generally in the vernacular, with varying degrees of fantasy.
+ Removal of Rites Signifying the Effect of the Sacrament
On the other hand, although the words essential to validity remain, they have unfortunately been removed:
1. for the anointing of the hands of the new priest with the Holy Oils, the words “consecration” and “sanctification“;
2. the rite of porrection (touching) of the chalice and paten with mention of the power to celebrate Mass for the living and for the dead;
3. the rite of unfolding the chasuble towards the end of the ceremony, with the words: “Sins will be forgiven to those to whom you forgive them“.
These deletions cannot be innocent. They betray the desire not to offend Protestants by manifesting too clearly the powers of the priest. They also reflect the new conception of the priesthood, stemming from the new ecclesiology of Vatican II, where the distinction between the priesthood of the priest and that of the faithful is very blurred. The new rites therefore tend to avoid references to the transmission of personal powers, and insist on the notions of presidency and principality over the ecclesiastical community, hence the above deletions.
In 1990, Mgr Vilnet, then President of the French Episcopal Conference, wrote in the Bulletin des vocations du diocèse de Paris (no. 233): “Priestly ordination does not transmit the priesthood, but simply the transmission of the mission”. We can seriously question the validity of ordinations conferred with such an intention, formally opposed to that of the Church.
b. The New Ritual for the Consecration of Bishops
+ Probably A Valid Rite
In a study published in the Spanish edition of the journal Si Si No No, Father Alvaro Calderón (SSPX), professor of theology at the Seminary of La Reja (Argentina), concludes that the new rite is very probably valid10. Although its authors based their reform on the Traditio Apostolica, an ancient document that does not belong to any particular Eastern or Western liturgical tradition, it is essentially identical with the rites of the Coptic Catholic and Syrian Maronite Churches, which have given the Church great saints: St. Athanasius and St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. John Chrysostom and St. Jerome. We can also add Saint Maroun, Saint Charbel and various others.
+ A Certainly Illegitimate Rite
In the same study, however, Father Calderón notes that the new rite of episcopal consecration cannot have the force of law in the Church (which is what is meant by the word “illegitimate”):
The new rite that Paul VI intended to promulgate with his apostolic constitution Pontificalis Romani is certainly illegitimate for two reasons: firstly, because no pope has the authority to abrogate the Roman liturgical tradition, and even less to invent a rite at odds with the entire Catholic tradition; secondly, because the contagion of modernist doctrines renders it harmful to the faith, and a determination contrary to the common good of the Church cannot have the force of law.
+ A Rite Without the Guarantees of Either the Ordinary or the Extraordinary Magisterium
This new rite does not have the guarantee of the Church’s universal ordinary magisterium, since it is based on the Traditio apostolica (supra), which does not belong to any particular liturgical tradition. And it does not have the guarantee of the extraordinary magisterium. Although Paul VI took up the expression “supreme apostolic authority” used by Pius XII in his constitution Sacramentum ordinis (DS 3859), Abbé Calderón makes the following remark:
Since the Council and Ecclesiam suam, this expression no longer has the same meaning as it did for Pius XII, and hierarchical acts no longer offer us the assurance of divine authority. What’s more, the new Roman liturgical prescriptions are no more than a framework to be taken into account for liturgical inculturation in each place. If we wanted complete peace of conscience, we’d have to ask the Pope for an infallible declaration for each of the vernacular versions of the sacramental forms (p. 5).
Necessity of Conditional Re-ordinations and Re-Consecrations
The positive and objective defects from which this rite suffers, which prevent us from being certain of its validity [since it is only probably valid] seem to us – until a Roman sentence, by which many things should change – to justify and make necessary the conditional re-ordination of priests consecrated by new bishops and, if necessary, the conditional re-consecration of these bishops. It is not possible to suffer such uncertainties at the very root of the sacraments (p. 6-7).
1 Msgr LEFEBVRE, Extract from the episcopal consecration sermon of 30 June 1988, Fideliter, July/August 1988, p. 6).
2 Msgr LEFEBVRE, Letter of 28 October 1988 to Mr Wilson. Published in Le Sel de la terre 98, p. 216-217.
3 D C 1445 (1965), col. 604.
4 The same was true during the Second Vatican Council. For example, Pastor Wilhem Schmidt claimed authorship of the expression susbistit in [the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church] in the Lumen gentium constitution on the Church. He had suggested it to Cardinal Frings through Abbé Ratzinger (Catéchisme catholique de la crise dans l’Église, by Abbé Gaudron, no. 29, Editions du Sel, 2014).
5 Preface to: A Brief Critical Study of the Novus Ordo Missae.
6 LÉO XIII, Lettre Apostolicae curae caritatis of 13 September 1896, on the invalidity of Anglican ordi-nations, DS 3318.
7 P. Prümmer O.P., Manuale Theologiae Moralis, Friburgi Brisgoviae, Herder, 1933, vol. III, no. 154.
8 Da, quaesumus, omnipotens Pater, his famulis tuis Presbyterii dignitatem; innova in visceribus eorum Spiritum sanctitatis; acceptum a te, Deus, secundi meriti munus obtineant, censuramque morum exemplo suae conversationis insinuent. According to the Constitution Pontificalis Romani of 18 June 1968, published in AAS 1968, p. 373, and in Notitiæ July-August 1968, p. 212.
9 So we have two versions (!!!) of the Constitution Pontificalis Romani: the one published in the AAS and the Notitiæ, and the one published in the Pontifical. The same cacophony was observed with the publication of the new Mass.
10 Fr. Calderón, « Si las consagraciones episcopales reformadas por Pablo VI son válidas », Si Si No No 267, november 2014.