Commentary on Patrick Henry’s
“Petition for Spiritual Help”
By Bishop Mark A. Pivarunas, CMRI
It is indeed sad that Patrick Henry’s article, “My Petition for Spiritual Help,” is nothing more than a promotion of his erroneous opinion that the faithful no longer have available any bishops or priests to offer Holy Mass and to administer the Sacraments, and his mentality unfortunately resembles that of the late Francis Schuckardt, who claimed to be the sole authority left in the Church.
- According to his own position, he cannot consider himself a member of the Mystical Body of Christ. After all, who absolved him from his membership in the Vatican II Church? To whom did he abjure his error of being associated with and ordained by Francis Schuckardt? Let him tell us the name of the bishop with jurisdiction who received him back into the Catholic Church. After nearly thirty years, he cannot name him.
- In the very publication of his article, he violated Canon 1394 which requires the approval of such writings by a bishop with jurisdiction. His article has no Imprimatur! Does he think himself above Church law that he can thus disregard it?
- In his article, he attempted to interpret Canon Law and in particular Canon 209. Surely he must realize that he had no authority to interpret Canon Law. According to Canon 17, only the Pope for the entire Church, and a bishop for his diocese, enjoy the authority to issue authoritative interpretations.
- After thirty years, he still has not found a bishop with ordinary jurisdiction to receive him back into the Church. Before he preaches to others as if he possessed an apostolic mission, he really should return to the Catholic Church himself.
How sad for Patrick Henry to attempt to mislead others to a dead end: to be a stay-home Catholic without the Mass and Sacraments! Fr. Cekada cleverly identified those who claim to have a monopoly on salvation with the title, “Follow me or die.” Patrick Henry’s opinion is more appropriately, “Follow me and die.”
As for particular points in his article the following should be considered:
- His accusation that Archbishop Thuc became a heretic by signing the documents of Vatican II manifests his lack of knowledge of Canon Law and his “Schuckardt mentality” (one which arbitrarily and irresponsibly accused others of heresy). According to Canon 1325, a necessary condition for heresy is pertinacity — “that is with conscious and intentional resistance to the authority of God and the Church” (Canon Law, Bouscaren/Ellis C.1325). Furthermore, according to Canon 2228, “a penalty established by law is not incurred unless the crime was perfect in its kind according to the proper meaning of the words of the law” (Canon Law Bouscaren/Ellis).
Patrick Henry’s accusation of heresy against Archbishop Thuc failed to take into account “pertinacity” as is required by Canon 1325, the effect of which would make it fall short of a crime “perfect in its kind according to the proper meaning of the words of the law” as required by Canon 2228. The unique problem with the Second Vatican Council is that it had the appearance of an Ecumenical Council; it is possible that bishops submitted to it in good faith, not wanting to oppose what appeared to be the “Magisterium” of the Church. Archbishop Thuc did not “with conscious and intentional resistance to the authority of God and to the Church” deny any doctrine of Divine and Catholic Faith. When Vatican II was subsequently implemented, it became clear that there was a serious departure from the Catholic Faith, and traditional bishops and priests, in defense of the Faith, exposed these errors.
Along this same line, another example can be cited of those who erroneously claim that the traditional bishops have been ipso facto excommunicated because there were no papal mandates for their consecrations. Once again, the 1917 Code of Canon Law asserts that penal laws are to be interpreted strictly, i.e., if conditions are not exactly according to the law, the penalty is not incurred (in poenis, benignior interpretatio). When one reads the exact wording of Pope Pius XII’s encyclical where he addressed the situation in Communist China, the following conditions were established:
“Consequently, if consecration of this kind is being done contrary to all right and law, and by this crime the unity of the Church is being seriously attacked, an excommunication reserved specialissimo mode to the Apostolic See has been established which is automatically incurred by the consecrator and by anyone who has received consecration irresponsibly conferred.”
There is no parallel between the consecration of bishops in the present crisis of the Church and the consecration of Communist-appointed men by the Chinese government in order to establish a schismatic Church in opposition to the Catholic Church. As Pope Pius XII said in his encyclical Ad Apostolorum Principis in regard to the schismatic Chinese consecrations: “...there is no question of vacant sees, as they wish to argue in defense, but of episcopal sees whose legitimate rulers have been driven out or now languish in prison or are being obstructed in various ways from the free exercise of their power of jurisdiction.” The consecration of bishops during this present crisis in the Church is in no wise “contrary to all right and law” and the unity of the Church is certainly not “being seriously attacked.”
In 1981 Archbishop Thuc consecrated Bishop Guerard Des Lauriers, Bishop Carmona, and Bishop Zamora. Based on the principles of sacramental theology of Pope Leo XIII in Apostolicae Curae, there can be no reasonable doubt about the validity of the Thuc consecrations. In a personal interview of Bishop Pivarunas with Bishop Carmona in 1987, Bishop Carmona stated that he followed with his own Pontificale all that Archbishop Thuc did during the consecration ceremony, and affirmed that the Archbishop followed the rite exactly.
As for the false accusation that Archbishop Thuc was senile, there are many witnesses who have verified that before, at the time of, and after the 1981 consecrations the Archbishop was completely lucid, attentive, rational, offered public Masses, and met with numerous people, etc. A number of these witnesses were traditional priests who, under oath, with God as their witness, verified that the Archbishop was certainly rational.
As for the traditional priests ordained and traditional bishops consecrated during this extended time of interregnum, the historical precedent has already been established. During the 40 years of the Great Western Schism, bishops were consecrated and priests ordained within each of the three factions (Rome, Avignon, and Pisa). As theologian Fr. Timothy Zapelena S.J., in De Ecclesiae Christi taught: “The true pope was the Roman one, that is Urban VI and his successors. Therefore he was able to give jurisdiction even to the bishops of the other obediences (on account of common error of the faithful together with the colored title) ... For the rest, if you figure those three popes to be null, you ought to admit that jurisdiction is supplied (on account of the color of title) not indeed by the Church, which lacks the supreme power, but by Christ Himself, who would confer jurisdiction on each of these anti-popes as much as was necessary.” Furthermore, during the protracted interregnum between the reign of Pope Clement IV and and that of Blessed Gregory X, bishops were consecrated without papal mandate and functioned as ordinaries in their dioceses. When the interregnum ended with the election of Blessed Gregory X, the Pope ratified these consecrations. This subsequent ratification did not prevent the bishops during the interregnum from functioning as bishops. This is a historical fact. The traditional bishops of today, based on this precedent, also have supplied jurisdiction and also await ratification from a future pope.
One last issue to be raised is his claim that there is no unity among the traditional clergy. Anyone with a basic knowledge of dogmatic and moral theology knows well that there have been differing opinions among theologians (St. Alphonsus de Liguori and St. Robert Bellarmine included). One striking example of a difference of opinion was between the Holy Office and the Roman Rota during the reign of Pope Pius XII. The difference pertained to the interpretation of Canon 1068. The Holy Office allowed marriage under Canon 1068 while the Rota declared such marriages invalid. There was a doubt of fact as to whether a certain medical procedure constituted a diriment impediment. The Holy Office and the Rota had different opinions. His claim, therefore, of lack of unity manifests an ignorance of this difference in theological opinions.
In conclusion, Patrick Henry should take an honest look at his position. He cannot point to even one person in the world today who is truly Catholic — not even himself! He cannot even present a means by which he can return to the Catholic Church today. What a tragedy!
The purpose of this response is to assist anyone confused by the “dead end” theology of Patrick Henry. He should stop his pseudo-ministry of acting as if he possessed a mission from the Church, and he should really figure out how he will, according to his own opinion, some day come back to the Catholic Church by an abjuration of error from a bishop with ordinary jurisdiction. He deserves sympathy and prayers.
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