Whether Anyone May Licitly Receive Holy Orders Without Canonical Mission?

In his latest, Steve Speray says, 

“Probably against my better judgment, I’m going to reply to it even though it’s so bad. However, it gives me an opportunity to demonstrate how the home-alone position attracts real know-nothings.” 

And further on, Speray asserts:

“I demonstrated clearly how our clergy are rightly ordained and sent using Bishop Carmona’s explanation. Apparently, Robbins doesn’t understand what he reads.” 

And then, he says: 

“On my survival mode point, Robbins states, ‘Steve makes the argument that one is able to break the law when required to do so for survival.’ This is an outrageous lie. I’ve made it clear that our clergy are not breaking the law but are following the spirit of the law and not sinning against it.”

Finally, Steve concludes: 

“I expect Robbins to reply again with more buffoonery, more lies, and more hypocrisy. After all, he believes he can ignore, twist, or break ecclesiastical laws and publish without permission since he has made himself the final authority in his churchless world. This is to be expected from home-aloners because they’ve lost the Church. It only exists in their imaginary dream world where they pretend to be hobbits cuddled together in their little cottages.”

Well, happily (from my Hobbit hole in which I am fated until my doom to remain a know-nothing on account of my pleasure I receive herein, smoking my Longbottom Leaf, feet up, and not violating Divine precepts) I did manage to write a reply, but whether it is full of buffoonery, lies and hypocrisy, the world and God may judge. I have attempted to demonstrate—actually demonstrate as opposed to what Steve does which is merely assert without logical proof from authority and reason—what the Church teaches concerning this business of holy orders and canonical mission, based upon my reading and understanding of Carmona and what the Church teaches. Whether I understood what I read, I will, again, leave to the world and God to be judge.  

It is my sincerest desire that it be read with the same spirit of care and attention with which it was written and that if there be any falsehood found therein, Mr. Speray may have the goodness to point out wherein it errs. But that if there be no falsehood found, then perhaps a civil and truly Catholic discourse on the problems facing us Catholics may be broached, so that we do not become:  

“Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing,

Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness;

So on the ocean of life, we pass and speak one another,

Only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.”

Whether anyone may licitly receive holy orders without canonical mission?

Objection 1: It would seem that those who do not have a mission in the Church are able to act as ministers of the sacraments. For, as Pope Gregory IX declares in the fourth rule of his decretal, “What is not lawful by law, necessity makes lawful.” But holy orders are necessary for salvation, insofar as the sacraments are necessary for salvation, and holy orders are necessary for the sacraments. Thus, holy orders are licitly received in a time of necessity without canonical mission. 

Objection 2: Further, according to Rule eighty-eight of Boniface VIII, “It is certain that one sins against the rule who adheres to the letter and leaves aside the spirit,” hence, it is unjust to impute to the legislator a desire to greatly harm the Church during a vacancy of the Holy See by forbidding the ordination of bishops and priests. Therefore, it is not only lawful to receive holy orders but a sin not to receive holy orders without canonical mission through a strict adherence to the letter of the law.    

Objection 3: Further, the supreme law of the Church is the salvation of souls. But the necessity of canonical mission seems to be a matter of ecclesial law, which is itself directed by a higher law, namely the Divine law, of which the salvation of souls is a precept, indeed the highest precept. Therefore, holy orders are not illicitly received without canonical mission when the Divine precept would be violated if the ecclesiastical precept were followed.

On the contrary, the Ecumenical Council of Trent teaches, “If any one shall say…that those who have neither been rightly ordained, nor sent, by ecclesiastical and canonical power, but come from elsewhere, are lawful ministers of the word and of the sacraments; let him be anathema, (Session XXIII. Canon vii.). 

Further, the necessity of canonical mission for holy orders is a rule of faith and not discipline. But a rule of faith must be believed and followed. Therefore canonical mission for holy orders must be believed and followed as  a rule of faith.    

Further, canonical mission is a matter of divine law and not human law. But divine law is not subject to change as human law is, because the Divine lawgiver being infinite and perfect in understanding foresees all contingencies, whereas human law being finite and imperfect cannot. Neither therefore is canonical mission subject to change. 

I answer that, ecclesiastical canons are of two kinds, those of discipline and those of faith: 

“As to the authority of ecclesiastical canons, it is evident a distinction must be made when speaking of canons of faith and canons of discipline, for the former are irreversible, the latter are not. Similarly, it is plain that canons containing a precept already binding by reason of Divine or natural law, cannot be on the same footing as those that are of mere ecclesiastical origin,” (Catholic Encyclopedia, “Ecclesiastical Canons”).

Now it is evident the necessity of canonical mission cannot be set aside because it pertains to the rules or canons of the faith, none which may be set aside without becoming by that very act a heretic, as the Theologian teaches: 

“Accordingly there are two ways in which a man may deviate from the rectitude of the Christian faith. First, because he is unwilling to assent to Christ: and such a man has an evil will, so to say, in respect of the very end. This belongs to the species of unbelief in pagans and Jews. Secondly, because, though he intends to assent to Christ, yet he fails in his choice of those things wherein he assents to Christ, because he chooses not what Christ really taught, but the suggestions of his own mind,” (ST. II.II:11.1).

Rectitude of the Christian faith is determined by the rule of faith. Hence, the denial of a rule of faith is a deviation of the rectitude of the Christian faith, which is heresy. That canonical mission is a rule of faith, the Council Fathers of Trent made clear:   

“…yea rather it doth decree, that all those who, being only called and instituted by the people, or by the secular power and magistrate, ascend to the exercise of these ministrations, and those who of their own rashness assume them to themselves, are not ministers of the Church, but are to be accounted as thieves and robbers, who have not entered by the door.These are the things which it hath seemed good to the sacred synod to teach the faithful of Christ, in funereal terms, touching the sacrament of Orders. But it hath resolved to condemn things contrary thereunto, in express and specific canons, in the manner which follows; to the end that all men, with the assistance of Christ, using the rule of faith, may, amidst the darkness of so many errors, more easily be able to recognize and to hold Catholic truth,” (Trent, XXIII, Sacramental Orders, emphasis added).

Hence, the denial of the rule of faith of the necessity of canonical mission is heresy. But an act cannot be both heretical and licit. Therefore neither can holy orders be received without canonical mission, because to do so is an act of heresy, not in word but deed, insofar as the act implies the denial of the divine precept which should bind the conscience, as all rules of faith so bind. 

Reply to Objection 1: There are different kinds of necessity: “…the sacraments are necessary, not absolutely but only hypothetically, i.e., in the supposition that if we wish to obtain a certain supernatural end we must use the supernatural means appointed for obtaining that end…It is the teaching of the Catholic Church and of Christians in general that, whilst God was nowise bound to make use of external ceremonies as symbols of things spiritual and sacred, it has pleased Him to do so, and this is the ordinary and most suitable manner of dealing with men. Writers on the sacraments refer to this as the necessitas convenientiae, the necessity of suitableness. It is not really a necessity, but the most appropriate manner of dealing with creatures that are at the same time spiritual and corporeal.” (Catholic Encyclopedia, “Sacraments”). 

The objection rests on the assertion that holy orders are necessary for the sacraments, which are necessary for salvation, which is true, if necessity is understood in the right sense, which the above shows to be hypothetical necessity or necessity of suitableness, and not absolute necessity. But believing and following a rule of faith is absolutely necessary, as was demonstrated in the body of the article. Therefore, we should follow what is absolutely necessary and not what is only hypothetically so. 

And, since what is not lawful by law, necessity makes lawful, and since it is absolutely necessary to follow a rule of faith, though it be ordinarily unlawful not to receive sacraments, the necessity of impossibility of receiving sacraments from those who have not received their holy orders from canonical mission would make it lawful not to receive the sacraments. Thus, the decretal of Gregory IX applies to the hypothetical necessity of the reception of the sacraments more fittingly than to the absolute necessity of the rule of faith, which cannot be dispensed with without committing the act of heresy.     

Reply to Objection 2: Since canonical mission is a matter of Divine law, as is evident by the words, “As the Father hath sent me, I also send you,” (John 20:21), and as the Theologian teaches, “Our Lord said (Matthew 7:24): ‘Every one . . . that heareth these My words, and doth them, shall be likened to a wise man that built his house upon a rock.’ But a wise builder leaves out nothing that is necessary to the building. Therefore Christ’s words contain all things necessary for man’s salvation,” (ST. II.II.11.2), it is evident that one who adheres to the strict meaning and interpretation of Christ’s words does not sin but, on the contrary, is a wise and holy man, and acts in accordance with the necessary means of securing his personal salvation.   

Reply to Objection 3: Canonical mission is a matter of Divine and not human law, as was proven above. Further, as a rule of faith, the necessity of canonical mission for holy orders is a part of the supreme law of the Church, insofar as the belief of all articles of faith are required for salvation. Hence, because the denial of a rule of faith amounts to a violation of the precept of the supreme law of the Church, the reception of holy orders without canonical mission is not only illicit but a violation of the Divine law, which is itself an act of sacrilege, as the Theologian teaches: “Isidore says (Etym. x) that ‘a man is said to be sacrilegious because he selects,’ i.e. steals, ‘sacred things,’” (ST. II.II.99.1). Now the reception of holy orders without canonical mission is an act of stealing, which is evident by the words above, “…thieves and robbers, who have not entered by the door.” Therefore, the reception of holy orders without canonical mission is both illicit and sacrilegious.