Validity of new rite of episcopal consecrations: 7

Solution of the difficulties: defect of intention

1) We have never seen anything to suggest that the new rite was made in view of ecumenism with the Anglicans. The “ecumenical” argument envisaged the Eastern Rites. Let us revisit Dom Botte’s memoirs:

If I was paying attention to this text it wasn’t because I had just finished a critical edition of it, but because my study of the oriental rites made me notice that the formula always survived under more evolved forms. Thus, in the Syrian Rite the prayer for the patriarch’s ordination was none other than the one in the Testamentum Domini, a reworking of the Apostolic Tradition. The same is true for the Coptic Rite where the prayer for the bishop’s ordination is close to that of the Apostolic Constitutions, another reworking of Hipploytus’ text. The essential ideas of the Apostolic Tradition can be found everywhere. Reusing the old text in the Roman Rite would affirm a unity of outlook between East and West on the episcopacy. This was an ecumenical argument. It was decisive.[117]

The situation is quite different from that in which the new Mass was redacted, during which the reformers clearly manifested their desire for ecumenism with the Protestants who participated in the elaboration of the new rite. Such a rapprochement and such collaboration with heretics was a danger to the orthodoxy of the faith, and in fact resulted in a new Mass favens haeresim (favoring heresy). In this case the rapprochement is with rites in usage in the East by Catholics as well as by schismatics. The fact of desiring to establish cordial relations with these Rites does not manifest a priori any intention dangerous to the faith. And in fact the new rite does not deserve to be characterized as “favens haeresim,” even if one might have other valid reasons for refusing it.[118]

If there are Anglicans who have adopted (ad libitum) a liturgy similar to Pope Paul VI’s rite, different explanations can be offered:

  1. The Anglicans might have doubts about their own rite (even if they corrected the rite declared invalid by Leo XIII), and consequently may desire to have recourse to a certainly valid rite.
  2. As it would be humiliating for them to reinstate the rite of the Roman Church which they rejected, it might be for them a less compromising solution to adopt a rite inspired by the Apostolic Tradition that is known to be valid thanks to its usage in the Eastern Rites.
  3. The new rite being less explicit than the pre-conciliar Roman rite (to which, over the centuries, additions were made to specify the true nature of the episcopacy against errors), it would be easier for them to accommodate it to their own ideas, introducing slight modifications as needed. An example of a favorable reception is given in a letter from Oscar Cullman to Fr. Bruno Kleinheyer, dated March 19, 1968, after the first episcopal consecration in the new rite, that of Bishop Hänggi of Basel:

I consider that the ordination on the occasion of Bishop Hänggi’s consecration is a very beautiful fruit of the efforts of the Council in liturgical matters. As a Protestant, I can only say that I could have participated completely in this liturgy (a few passages excepted), and that this could also be an example for the investiture of the Protestant ministers of the Church.[119]

Consequently, nothing supports the allegation that conciliar Rome adopted the new rite because they share the ideas of the Anglicans concerning the episcopacy and their non-Catholic intention, even if the new rite is more easily acceptable to the Protestants than the old rite.

2) The most contestable point of doctrine issuing from Vatican II as regards the episcopacy is collegiality. We know that Pope Paul VI himself was obliged to insert a nota explicativa prævia (preliminary explanatory note) 120 to the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church in order to avoid a heterodox interpretation being given to the Conciliar text. Here is the passage of this note that especially concerns us:

A person becomes a member of the College by virtue of episcopal consecration and hierarchical communion with the head of the College and its members. Cf. Article 22, §1, at the end.

In consecration is given an ontological participation in sacred functions, as is clear beyond doubt from tradition, even liturgical. The word functions is deliberately employed, rather than powers , since this latter word could be understood as ready to go into action. But for such ready power to be had, it needs canonical or juridical determination by hierarchical authority. This determination of power can consist in the granting of a particular office, or in an assigning of subjects; and it is given according to norms approved by the highest authority. Such an ulterior norm is demanded by the nature of the case, since there is question of functions which must be exercised by several subjects working together by Christ’s will in a hierarchical manner. It is clear that this “communion” has been in the life of the Church according to circumstances of the times, before it was, so to speak, codified in law.

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117 Botte, O.S.B., From Silence to Participation: An Insider’s View of Liturgical Renewal, tr. by John Sullivan, O.C.D. (Washington, D.C.: The Pastoral Press, 1988), p.135.

118 See what we said above at the end of the main answer above.

119 Archives of the German Liturgical Institute (Trier), Kleinheyer drawer, B 130, our translation.