HOLY OFFICE DECREE 1951.
Let's Examine the contents and the real meaning.
The 1951 Decree establishing the automatic penalty of excommunication for the consecration of a bishop reads as follows: ORDINATION & SACRAMENTAL VALIDITY PDF........CANON LAW SOCIETY OF GREAT BRITAIN REPORT ON VALIDITY OF HOLY ORDERS & His Holiness, Pope Pius XII, Excommunication, and Traditional Catholic Bishops Hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church Vatican II have sometimes invoked a 1951 decree and a 1958 encyclical of Pope Pius XII against various traditional Catholic bishops, including those consecrated by Bishop Carlos Duarte Costa and his successors.
(Picture is of Pope Pius XII)
Decree concerning the Consecration of a Bishop
without Canonical Appointment.
Decree concerning the Consecration of a Bishop
without Canonical Appointment.
"The Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, in virtue of a special faculty established for it by the Supreme Pontiff, published the following Decree:
"A Bishop, of whatever rite or dignity, who consecrates as a Bishop someone who is neither nominated by the Holy See nor expressly confirmed by that same See, and he who receives consecration, even if coerced by grave fear (c.229, §3, 3), incur ipso facto [automatically] excommunication most especially reserved to the Apostolic See". This Decree takes effect from the date of its promulgation. Those who have attempted to invoke this decree in our own circumstances seem to have confused two things:
1. The Mandatum: the papal document granting permission for the consecration of a bishop who will serve as a bishop in any capacity, including as an auxiliary or titular bishop, and
2. The canonical appointment: a papal decree designating a bishop as Ordinary (or "residential bishop") of a duly constituted diocese, which appointment auxiliary and titular bishops did not receive.
The canonist Fr. Eduardo Regatillo, in his Institutiones Juris Canonici (Santander: Sal Terrae 1956), 2:600, states that the 1951 decree affects only bishops consecrated without papal appointment to be heads of dioceses.
"Anyone who is to be promoted to the episcopacy needs the canonical appointment by which he is constituted Bishop of a such a vacant diocese. "In practice, it may be doubted whether only those who are to be consecrated residential Bishops are affected - that is, those who are consecrated for a diocese now in existence - or also titular bishops (who are created for an extinct see or diocese), or bishops who are consecrated for no diocese. "From the purpose intended by the Holy Office, the decree appears to cover only those who are consecrated as residential bishops, for this is the actual case which the Holy See intends to condemn. "This new type (of offense) differs from the one mentioned in canon 2370, where the canon refers to consecrations performed without apostolic mandate (described in canon 953). The new decree, on the other hand, punishes consecrations performed without pontifical appointment.
- "An appointment designates the person and bestows the title (to an office)".
- " A mandate grants the permission to confer the consecration."
The consecration of a bishop has, in the hierarchy of the Sacrament of Orders, pride of place. A cardinal and the pope do not have a higher consecration. A bishop possesses two powers:
•a power of consecration;
•a power of jurisdiction, which he can exercise only if he is in charge of a diocese.
The episcopal power is a power of divine right, which endows a bishop with a personal authority and gives him a legal and constitutional status which the pope can neither suppress nor modify.
- A bishop is not allowed to confer episcopal consecration on anyone without papal mandate (Canon 953, CIC (Code of Canon Law in Latin 1917). Whoever acts contrarily incurs an excommunication latae sententiae - reserved to the Holy See (Canon 1382, CIC 1983). The excommunication latae sententiae takes effect by the very act itself; it does not need to be decreed. In this particular case, the 1917 Canon Law inflicted only a suspension ("Ipso iure suspensi sunt, donec Sedes Apostolica eos dispensaverit - They are suspended by the Law itself, until the Apostolic See dispenses them." (Canon 2370. CIC 1917.)
- However, Canon Law is far from judging things only according to their exterior aspects. Not to take into account the particular circumstances and the subjective disposition of the persons in question would also be in contradiction with the Church's current notion of justice. In the case of an episcopal consecration without papal mandate, the threatened sanction, according to the terms of Canon 1382, is very clearly an ipso facto sanction as stated above. Therefore, in this case one must apply the principle:
- What does the law mean by "grave inconvenience" and "necessity" ?
- Thus it is sufficiently, clearly and undoubtedly established that there is a situation of grave inconvenience. In order to avert this truly dangerous situation, some candidates to the priesthood are correctly trained outside of official seminaries, who, if the law were strictly followed, would almost certainly never be ordained, i.e., would not be able to become priests. Here is certainly such a situation of necessity, from which any penalty is excluded. Only the consecration of a bishop who would ordain these priests can avert the above-mentioned danger. Otherwise not only the studies and the priestly formation of these candidates for the Holy Priesthood would be lost, but also the faithful who depend upon them would not benefit by these spiritual goods which they would be able to receive through them. Thus the faithful also find themselves in a situation of danger. Of course it would be exaggerating to say that the spiritual goods necessary for the salvation of souls are not administered in any official post-conciliar church; but the disastrous present situation consists in Catholics often having to wonder whether the catechesis and religious services are still truly Catholic or not. Even moderate and objective observers of the present situation of the Church acknowledge that at least in some cases the true intention of the priest, absolutely indispensable for the validity of the sacraments, is doubtful or even clearly not there.
- Another restriction: only situations of necessity of an accidental character make free from the sanction. This means that the inconveniences which are naturally linked with the fulfillment of a certain law must be accepted and do not authorize one to break the law. However, this restriction does not apply in our case since it is precisely accidental, unusual and highly against the nature of things that respect for the law in our case - that is, to abstain from the episcopal consecration without papal mandate - leads to the situation of peril. The fact that the salvation of souls is endangered by abstaining from such episcopal consecration does not constitute, at least not according to the nature of things, a situation of peril normally linked to obedience to the law, but rather is a characteristic of the present abnormal situation.
- Another restriction: an action incurring a punishment, but performed in order to avert a danger, is not exempted from sanction if it is intrinsically evil or brings prejudice to souls (Canon 1324, N.1.5). In the former Code, the limits of the dispensation from sanctions were still more restricted (Canon 2205, 2): any action leading to the contempt of Faith or of the hierarchy of the Church was also condemned.
- However, we need not answer this question, since Canon 1324, N. 3, CIC 1983, simply says that in situations described in N. 1, there is no sanction for the person who does not follow the law. This means that even if one would claim that an episcopal consecration without papal mandate would be in all cases an act by itself worthy of an automatic sanction, and bringing prejudice to souls, it would still remain free from an automatic sanction (latae sententiae) because of the emergency situation described above. Now exactly such a sanction is threatened in the case of a non-authorized episcopal consecration by Canon 1382, CIC 1983! It follows, on the basis of a situation of evident peril (Canon 1323 N. 4, Canon 1324, N. 1,5 and N. 3), that the threat of excommunication, threatened by Canon 1382 against the unauthorized consecrator, would not apply.
b.The violator of the law is not exempt from all penalty, but the penalty laid down in the law or in the administrative order must be mitigated, or a penance must be substituted, if the offense was accomplished by someone believing through an error, even if culpable, that he was in a circumstance foreseen in Canon 1323, N. 4 and 5 (Canon 1324, N. 1.8).
Moreover, Canon 1324, N. 3, says: "In the circumstances explained in N. 1, the violator does not incur any latae sententiae penalty (automatic penalty)." Thus those who would suppose that the emergency exists only in the fantasy and the imagination of the Bishop concerned could hardly argue that this supposedly erroneous conception would be punishable.
- Therefore, the widely spread opinion that the consecration of one or several bishops without papal mandate would cause an automatic excommunication and would lead to schism is completely false.Due to the very terms of the applicable law itself, an excommunication for the aforementioned case could not be applied, neither automatically, nor by sentence of a judge ECCLESIASTICAL LAW AND HOW IT SEES ACCORDING TO CANON LAW ALSO THE VALIDITYOF BISHOP JAMES ATKINSON-WAKE AND HIS PREDECESSORS, LAYING OF HANDS PDF.