A theological study of the 1988 consecrations (2)

Part 2 (of 3)

1st principle: the grave necessity of many is equated with the grave necessity of the individual

It is the common doctrine of theologians and canonists that the grave necessity of many (either general or public) must be equated with the grave necessity of the individual (P. Palazzini, Dictionarium Morale et Canonicum, vol.1, p. 571). This is a fundamental principle because it means that that which is lawful in the extreme necessity of the individual is lawful in the grave necessity of many. Theologians explain the reasons for this:

  1. Because among many persons in grave necessity individual souls in the state of extreme necessity are not lacking, e.g., in an epidemic souls not capable of an act of perfect contrition are not lacking and that in order to be saved, therefore, have need of sacramental absolution. Likewise, if a heresy has been spread, souls unable to defend themselves from the sophisms of the heretics are not lacking and hence are in danger of loosing their faith;[1]
  2. Because the grave spiritual necessity of many is a threat as well to the common good of Christian society. Not only is there not a spiritual necessity of many which does not become extreme for individual persons, but "in such kind of necessity the Christian religion itself and its honor are very nearly always in grave danger."[2]

The common good must be considered in danger not only when:

  1. Many effectively suffer harm, but also,
  2. when they are able to suffer it.

In the first application to our case, people lose the Faith; in the second, they are able to lose it if, in fact, only one objective cause exists which renders this damage possible.[3] The spread of errors and heresies already condemned by the Church is sufficient for judging the danger to the common good. These expose the old generations to the loss of faith and deprive the new generations of the integral transmission of doctrine.

Both old and young are robbed of the goods due to them by the hierarchy according to the norms of divine law, natural and positive, and also according to the norms of ecclesiastical law (1917 Code of Canon Law, can. 682; 1983 Code of Canon Law, can. 213), doctrine, and the sacraments, the rites of which today have been left to "creativity," as denounced by Pope Pius XII:

Private individuals, therefore, even though they be clerics, may not be left to decide for themselves in these holy and venerable matters." (Mediator Dei)

This is enough to say that today not only do many souls live in the state of grave necessity. The "double end which the Church pursues: the good of the religious community and the eternal salvation [of souls]"[4] has been compromised and "the very sense and scope of the whole life of the Church [Pope Pius XII]"[5] and, hence, the common good, is at stake.

2nd principle: the grave general necessity without hope of help on the part of legitimate pastors imposes an obligation of assistance upon clerics

Who is responsible for helping souls in the state of necessity? By way of justice (ex officio) it belongs to the legitimate pastors, but if, for any reason, their help happens to be lacking, this duty falls, by way of charity (ex caritate), up on anyone who has the possibility of offering help. St. Alphonsus and Suarez observe that the power of order adds to the duty of charity a duty of state, that is, the duty of the sacerdotal state—instituted by Our Lord precisely for assisting the spiritual needs of souls.[6]

Note that the duty of charity imposed by the need of souls is a duty under pain mortal sin. In fact, the greatest commandment, the commandment of charity, obliges coming to the aid of one’s neighbor in necessity, especially spiritual, and demands it under pain of mortal sin in extreme or near-extreme necessity of the individual and in the grave necessity of many, which is equivalent to it.[7] Fr. E. Genicot, S.J., writes that:

...it can be a grave [thus "sinning mortally by omitting it"—Ed.] obligation to aid people who otherwise, through the efforts of heretics and unbelievers, would lose the Faith, especially because at times it is morally impossible for the more simple to recognize their sophisms and hence many will probably be in extreme necessity."[8]

This duty of charity in some cases can oblige also at the risk of one’s own life, reputation, and goods. St. Alphonsus says that grave public or general spiritual necessity obliges in this way and that therefore:

...one is held at the risk of life to administer the sacraments to people who otherwise would be in danger of losing the Faith."[9]

Suarez is of the same mind:

If I knew that a heresy is being preached among the people by heretics, I would be held to oppose myself to it even in spite of peril to me."[10]

At his time, Billuart writes:

...[I]f a heretic perverts a whole community with a false doctrine, a private individual [e.g., the simple faithful or the priest who is not officially invested with the care of those souls—Ed.] is held, when he is able to do it, to obstruct it at the risk of his life. If, in fact, anyone is bound to assist at the risk of life the common temporal good, [how much] greater reason is the spiritual good. All the more in the case where many individuals are found in extreme necessity."[11]

part 3>


1 V.E. Genicot, S.J., Institutiones Theologiae Moralis, vol. I, 217B; Billuart, De caritate Diss., IV, A. 3; St. Alphonsus, Theologia Moralis, Book 3, n. 27.

2 F. Saurez, De charitate disput., IX, sect. II, n. 4.

3 V. Roberti-Palazzini, Dizionario di teologia morale, ed. Studium, under the word, "supplied jurisdiction."

4 Naz, Dict. Droit Canonique, under the word "canon law," col.1446.

5 Discourse (in French) to the Second World Congress of the Apostolate of the Laity, Oct. 1957.

6 St. Alphonsus, Theologia moralis, 16, tract 4, n. 625, and, Opere Morali, ed. Marietti (Torino, 1848), tract. XVI, cap. VI, nn. 126-127.

7 I Jn. 3:17; ST, II-II, Q. 32, A. 1, and A. 5, ad. 2; Q.71, A.1; Billuart, De caritate, dissert. IV, art.3.

8 E. Genicot, S.J., op. cit., vol. I, n217, B and C.

9 Theologia moralis, 1. 3, tract 3, n.27.

10 F. Suarez, De charitate, disput. 9, sect. II, n. 4.

11 De caritate, D dissert. IV, art.3.