Validity of new rite of episcopal consecrations

Why the new rite of episcopal consecration is valid


This comprehensive study was compiled to settle a debate that has been circulating in traditional Catholic circles. Some writers have examined the new rite of episcopal consecration and concluded that it must be invalid. Since this would cause manifest problems if it were true and due to the heightened awareness of such a theory, we present a study of this question concluding that it is valid.

Following the Council, in 1968 a new rite for the ordination of bishops was promulgated. It was, in fact, the first sacrament to undergo its “aggiornamento,” or updating.

In 1978, a certain Fr. Athanasius Kroeger, O.S.B., published a study in the Una Voce Korrespondenz (Vol.2, pp.95-106), in which he raised doubts about the validity of episcopal consecrations accomplished with the new rite. According to him, the new form was not specific enough, and it created a situation analogous to that of the Anglican ordinations that were declared null and void by Pope Leo XIII.

Later, Dr. Rama Coomaraswamy published a study entitled “The Post-Conciliar Rite of Holy Orders.”[1] Dr. Coomaraswamy concluded that the new episcopal consecrations are “almost certainly invalid.” When updating his study, posted on his Internet site in 2002, he claimed that his study had never been refuted.

For about a year now, various documents have been circulated on the Internet claiming “to demonstrate” the invalidity of the ordination of bishops performed according to the rite of Pope Paul VI. Taking up the arguments of the two aforementioned studies, they add several other considerations, notably about a change in the matter of the sacrament.

In the interest of bringing a little order and clarity to the question, we shall apply ourselves to studying the validity of the episcopal consecrations according to the ritual published by the Vatican in 1968. We shall proceed according to the scholastic method so as to treat of the matter as rigorously as possible....

We take the position (today, the most widely held) of the sacramentality of the episcopate; so doing, we adopt the hypothesis that is most unfavorable to the validity of the new rite. [N.B. Theological debate over this point has taken place for centuries. Although the Church has defined that there are precisely seven sacraments, it remains unclear whether episcopal consecration remains part of the sacrament of Holy Orders or is merely “a sacramental,” an ecclesiastical ceremony wherein the powers of the episcopate, “bound” in the simple priest, are “freed” for the exercise of the fullness of the priesthood. —Ed.]

Part 1 >

For our readers' convenience, this lengthy study has been divided into 8 webpages and 7 sidebar media items.

  1. Difficulties
  2. Arguments on the contrary
  3. Objections encountered
  4. Is the New Rite valid?
  5. Solution of the Difficulties: Defect of form
  6. Solution of the Difficulties: Defect of matter
  7. Solution of the Difficulties: Defect of intention
  8. Solution of the Difficulties: Answers to the arguments / Conclusion

Sidebar media for tables

*It was wrriten by Fr. Pierre-Marie, OP, a member of the traditional Dominican monastery at Avrille, France. He is a regular contributor to their quarterly review, Sel de la Terre (Salt of the Earth), in which this article was originally published (No. 54., Autumn 2005, pp. 72-129).