Validity of new rite of episcopal consecrations: 8

Solution of the difficulties: answers to the arguments

Answers to the Arguments

1) Undoubtedly, if the new rite were systematically invalid, the Catholic Church would be in a piteous state. Nevertheless, it still would not be without a hierarchy. Indeed, the bishops of the Eastern Rites would still remain, as they would continue to benefit from a valid ordination. And in the Roman Church, the bishops of Tradition would remain as well as–though for how long?—a few aged bishops ordained according to the former rite, all of them non-resident bishops. If the new rite were invalid, the Church would not be utterly without hierarchy: still, there would be an almost total disappearance of the Roman Church’s hierarchy, which seems hardly compatible with thespecial assistance of Providence over this Church, Mother and Mistress of all the Churches.

2) Nor is it possible to make a definitive argument from the fact that the reform was examined by a commission of the Holy Office while Cardinal Ottaviani was Prefect. On the one hand, as we have seen, Dom Botte arranged things in such a way as to sideline the Holy Office’s representative during the meetings of the examining commission. On the other, it must be remembered that Cardinal Ottaviani had gone blind during the last part of his tenure. That is undoubtedly the reason why he began by letting the new Mass pass. Archbishop Lefebvre had to go and see him and insist that he reconsider his decision and sign The Short Critical Study of the Novus Ordo Missae. Just as he did with the new Mass, Cardinal Ottaviani could have allowed deficiencies to slip into the new episcopal consecration rite.

3) There is no proof that Archbishop Lefebvre studied the reform of the episcopal consecration. A former seminarian even claimed that Archbishop Lefebvre had been tricked by a false report that presented Pope Paul VI’s reform as being in conformity with the Eastern rites. In fact, it is possible that Archbishop Lefebvre was shown the resemblance between the rite of Pope Paul VI and the Eastern rites, but in that there is no deception. The former seminarian of whom we speak was himself deceived by R. Coomaraswamy and did not notice this resemblance.

Consequently, not much can be inferred from Archbishop Lefebvre’s silence, except a certain probability: it is likely that, if the new rite were certainly invalid, as some “Coomaraswamists” claim, then Providence would not have allowed a fact of such importance to escape the notice of a person manifestly chosen by God to guide faithful Catholics in this time of confusion.


We think that we have shown that the reasons for suspecting the validity of the new rite of episcopal consecration as it was promulgated by Rome in 1968 are not at all serious. Moreover, the validity of the new rite could not be called into question without also calling into question the validity of several Eastern rites recognized by the Church from time immemorial. However, as we remarked at the end of the main response, if the new rite is still valid per se, it is quite possible that, owing to bad translations or an adaptation of the rite that strayed too far from the original, or because of a consecrator’s defect of intention, in certain particular cases we could have an invalid ceremony.


120 Curiously, this preliminary note is published at the end of the Constitution Lumen Gentium in the [French] Centurion edition (1965) [as well as in the Abbott edition from which the English citation below is taken].

121 [English version: Walter M. Abbott, S.J., ed., The Documents of Vatican II (New York: The America Press, 1966), pp.99-100.]

122 See Lumen Gentium, Article 22.

123 Ibid., Article 24.

124 Ibid., Article 22.


Pontificale Romanum, Pt. I, ed.typica (Vatican: Plyglotte Press, 1962). The details in brackets have been taken from Consecrations des Eveques (Angers: Richer, 1920) pp.51ff.

Pontifical Romain (Paris: Desclee-Mame, 1977). We have rectified the translation to bring it closer to the original: Pontificale Romanum, ed. typical (Vatican: Libreria Editirice Vaticana), 1968. [English version: ICEL, Roman Pontifical, 1978.]