Part 1 (of 3)
I. Duties and powers of a bishop in a state of necessity
A. State of necessity and its various degrees
The state of necessity consists in "a threat to the spiritual goods of life, of liberty or other earthly goods."
If the threat regards earthly goods, we have material necessity; if it regards spiritual goods, we have spiritual necessity, a necessity all the "more urgent than that material" to the extent that spiritual goods are more important than material goods.
In reality various degrees of spiritual necessity can be given, but theologians commonly distinguish five of them:
- ordinary (or common) spiritual necessity is that in which any sinner finds himself in ordinary circumstances;
- grave spiritual necessity is that when a soul finds herself threatened in spiritual goods of great importance (e.g., faith and morals);
- spiritual necessity almost extreme is the status of a soul which, without someone else’s help, could be rescued only with great difficulty;
- extreme spiritual necessity is that status of a soul is situated which, without the help of someone else, could not be able to be saved or would be able to do so with such difficulty that her salvation would be considered morally impossible;
- grave general (or public) spiritual necessity is that when several souls find themselves threatened in spiritual goods of great importance (e.g., faith and morals). Canonists and theologians commonly adduce as examples of grave general or public spiritual necessity epidemics and the public spreading of a heresy [emphasis added].
B. Today’s state of grave general spiritual necessity
Today a state of grave general (or public) spiritual necessity exists because many Catholics are threatened in faith and morals by the public and undisputed spreading of neo-modernsim or self-styled "new theology," already condemned by Pope Pius XII as the assembly of errors which "threaten to destroy the foundations of the Catholic Faith," a revival of that modernism previously condemned by Pope St. Pius X as "the synthesis of all heresies."
This public diffusion of errors and of heresies was dramatically denounced by Pope Paul VI who went so far as to speak of the "auto-destruction" of the Church and of the "smoke of Satan in the temple of God," and was admitted by Pope John Paul II at the beginning of his pontificate on the occasion of a Congress on missions to people:
There is need to admit realistically and with a deep and sober sensibility that Christians today, for the most part, are dismayed, confused, perplexed and even frustrated; ideas conflicting with revealed and constantly taught Truth have been scattered by handfuls; true and real heresies in the sphere of dogma and morals have been spread, creating doubts, confusions, rebellions; the liturgy has been violated; immersed in intellectual and moral "relativism," and therefore in permissiveness, Christians have been allured by atheism, by agnosticism, by a vaguely moralistic enlightenment, by a socialistic Christianity, without defined dogma and without objective morals."
There is, therefore, a state of grave public or general necessity: grave, because faith and morals have been threatened; public or general, because these spiritual goods, indispensable to salvation, have been threatened among a large part of the Christian people. The situation has grown worse after 20 years of Pope John Paul II:
It was believed [Pope Paul VI once acknowledged] that after the Council there would have come a sunny day in the history of the Church. There came, on the contrary, a day of clouds, of storm, of doubt."
Under these "clouds," in this "storm," amidst these "doubts," souls nevertheless must direct their course to the harbor of eternal salvation in the brief time of trial allotted to them. Who can deny that today, generally, many souls live in a state of "grave spiritual necessity?"
4 V.E. Eichmann-Kl. Morsdor, Trattato di diritto canonica, and G. May, Legittima difesa, resistenza, necessita.
5 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Suppl, Q. 8, A. 6; v., also P. Palazzini, Dictionarium morale et canonicum, under the word, "caritas" (erga proximum).
6 See, for example, P. Palazzini, Dictionarium morale et canonicum, under the word "caritas"; Billuart, De charitate, diss. IV, art. 3; Genicot, S.J., Institutiones Theologiae moralis, vol. I, 217, A and B, etc.
7 Pope Pius XII, Humani Generis, 1950 (Kansas City: Angelus Press).
8 Motu proprio, Nov. 18, 1907.
9 Discourse of Pope Paul VI at the Lombard Seminary in Rome, Dec. 7, 1968.
10 Discourse of Pope Paul VI, June 30, 1972.
11 L’Osservatore Romano, Feb. 7, 1981.