February 24, 1994
This situation tells us that the sacraments of heretics (like the "impious Arians") are to be accepted as valid as long as the sacraments were placed properly. Leinhardt and Lefebvre come in this class. Accept them as valid or (see the last words of DENSINGER A) "be separated from our company by synodal decision." That means being excommunicated!
The Baptism of Heretics
And so on the first page of your letter you have indicated that very many baptized by the impious Arians are hastening to the Catholic faith and that certain of our brothers wish to baptize these same ones again. This is not allowed since the Apostle forbids it to be done and the canons oppose it, and after the cessation of the Council of Ariminum general decrees sent to the provinces by my predecessor LIBERIUS of venerable memory prohibit it. These together with the Novatians and other heretics we join to the company of the Catholics through the sole invocation of the sevenfold Spirit by the imposition of a bishop's hands, just as it was determined in the Synod, which, too, the whole East and West observe. It is proper that you also do not deviate from this course henceforth, if you do not wish to be separated from our company by synodal decision.
This situation tells us when the validly ordained bishops and priests are not to be accepted. We cannot accept them (or you accept me) if we "are proven usurpers, simoniacs, or criminals." Once that is established, two more qualities are required, namely their way of life together with knowledge.
Just who are "proven usurpers, simoniacs, or criminals." "Proven" means that you can prove it by known facts; not just from hear-say. In Virginia I followed a man called Fr. Bartkoviac who functioned as a priest for nearly a year, and finally they learned that he had never been ordained. Do not take wooden nickels.
Who is a usurper? The dictionary defines usurp as "to seize and hold in possession by force, or without right – applied to seizure of office, place, functions, powers, rights etc." In other words he is a power grabber and likely lives high on the hog.
Who is a simoniac? In the dictionary we read, simony is "traffic in that which is sacred; specifically, the crime of buying or selling ecclesiastical preferment." The word comes from the name of the man, Simon Magus, who tried to buy the power of the Holy Ghost from St. Peter. The question to be answered is this – did the "priest" before you, buy his ordination, pay in money or property for his ordination? Furthermore, does he sell spiritual things – charging three dollars for a relic of St. Francis and a hundred dollars for a relic of the true Cross (both in the same kind of container)? Be sure to sniff that problem out. I have seen that over and over. Even older priests fall into that horrible sin.
Who is a criminal? Again in the dictionary a crime is defined as "An act or omission forbidden by law and punishable upon conviction, including public offenses often classified as treason, felony, and misdemeanor. Gross violation of human law, in distinction from a misdemeanor: hence, any aggravated offense against morality." The simple question is this: is he a crook? I know a priest who kept in his own bank account money given for a new Church. He held on to it so strongly that they had to take him to court in order to get the money away from him for building the church. Mind you, he still functions as a priest. I feel sorry for those he "serves."
At the end of DENSINGER B, we read, "whom way of life together with knowledge commends." What is meant by "way of life?" It simply means that he is above being a drunkard, a libertine, a compulsive gambler, a total sportsman and so forth and so on.
Finally, what is meant by knowledge? It means that he must have enough philosophy and theology to be able to direct himself and the faithful as true Catholics. I know a traditional priest who is so unlearned that he cannot even sing a High Mass. He gets away with his ignorance by being very arrogant, shows off as if he knows very well how to be a priest.
I am sick and tired of hearing people tell me: "Here is a priest who says the true Mass in Latin. We have to take him in." Some get very close to being the real thing, and all at once you see them joining those who are anything but Catholic. We see priests from foreign lands! Why are they not in their own country serving their own people, at least as a general rule. I know one who filched our people of many thousands of dollars. Unless your are gluts for punishment move very slowly before you accept a priest into your confidence. If you are with me, be sure that I go along with you, or you go without me.
The Ordinations by Heretics and Simoniacs
-- from Council of Guastalla, 1106 A.D.
For many years now the broad extent of the Teutonic kingdom has been separated from the unity of the Apostolic See. In this schism indeed so great a danger has arisen that -- and we say this with sorrow -- only a few priests or Catholic clergy are found in such a broad extend of territory. Therefore, with so many sons living in this condition, the necessity of Christian peace demands that regarding this (group) the maternal womb of the Church be open. Therefore instructed by the examples and writings of our Fathers, who in different times received into their ranks the Novations, the Donatists, and other heretics, we are receiving in the episcopal office the bishops of the above-mentioned region who have been ordained in schism, unless they are proven usurpers, simoniacs, or criminals. We decree the same concerning the clergy of any rank whom way of life together with knowledge commends.
In Situation C, we jump to the last line, "But the entire question was only slowly lulled to sleep." Brethren and friends, your deep concerns about the validity of sacrament from schismatics is a very old problem. Let me with these quotations from Denzinger calm your fears.
For anyone trained in theology the mere quotations from Denzinger should be sufficient. I hope this table will answer your concerns.
Because of this a serious controversy had arisen in the 10th century as to whether ordinations by heretics and simoniacs were valid or not, because certain of the more ancient authorities seemed to have decided that they are invalid. But presently Clement II in a synod of Rome 1047, when inflicting punishments on those ordained simoniacally, ignored the validity of the ordinations. Leo IX confirmed this decree in a Roman synod 1049, and declared that the ordinations by heretics were valid through a snare. But Nicholas II in a Roman Synod 1059, permitted those who thus far had been ordained gratis by simoniacs to remain in their office. Urban II in Placentina 1094, made the same decision regarding those who unknowingly had been ordained by simoniacs, and regarding those ordained by schismatics whom, however, manner of life and knowledge commended. Paschal II decided similarly. But the entire question was only slowly lulled to sleep.
This situation tells us that no matter how evil the minister of the sacrament might be, no stink gets into the sacrament of the one who receives it. The one who gives the sacrament, defiles only himself.
The Ordinations of Schismatics
-- St. Anastasius II 496-498
According to the most sacred custom of the Catholic Church, let the heart of your serenity acknowledge that no share in the injury from the name of Acacius should attach to any of these whom Acacius, the schismatic bishop, has baptized, or to any whom he has ordained priests or levites according to the canons, lest perchance the grace of the sacrament seem less powerful when conferred by an unjust person … For if the rays of that visible sun are not stained by contact with any pollution when they pass over the foulest places, much less is the virtue of him who made that visible (sun) fettered by an unworthiness in the minister.
Therefore, this person has only injured himself by wickedly administering the good. For the inviolable sacrament, which was given through him, held the perfection of its virtue for others.