But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their acts intentionally render a judgment on a matter that has been long disputed, it is clear to everyone that the matter, according to the mind and will of the same Pontiffs, cannot any longer be considered a question of free debate among theologians. Pope Pius XII (Humani Generis)
A PROBLEM WITH EXPERT OPINION
The weakness of the Blunderer's monograph on one-handed priestly orders is not confined to misdirection and a gravely faulty, "enhanced" translation of the official teaching of a Sovereign Roman Pontiff. The other arguments he advances are rife with holes, through which doubt positively shines. Among his array of flawed defenses are the canonists' and theologians' opinions he advances in support of one-handed validity.
We'll grant him one thing: the names are big ones -- Cappello, Regatillo, Aeternys, Damen, Nabuco, etc. Their views naturally carry weight and are worth hearing. However, we must keep one thing uppermost in our minds: These are only opinions.
Theological opinions are free views on aspects of doctrines concerning Faith and morals, which are neither clearly attested in Revelation nor decided by the Teaching Authority of the Church. Their value depends upon the reasons adduced in their favour (association with the doctrine of Revelation, the attitude of the Church, etc.)(1)Frankly, we still can't quite see how after 1947 there could be much free discussion on the question of hands in priestly ordination, inasmuch as Pius declared in paragraph 5 that "the matter is the first imposition of the bishop's hands..." (...materia est Episcopi prima manuum impositio). However, the Blunderer's authors must have had their reasons to promote an opinion that appears to have been settled by a Pope (i.e., hands, not a hand). Maybe it's not related to the faith or perhaps they didn't think the Pope was settling anything there. Who knows, right? At any rate, they offer a mere opinion, no matter how far flung their esteem in the eyes of men. Bear in mind, too, that an opinion is distinct from certainty or ignorance or doubt: It's an "adhesion of the mind to one of two opposite statements with a certain fear lest the other alternative be true."(2)
In other words, there's always the possibility the opinion could be wrong. The canonists themselves knew that hard fact despite their habitual manner of speaking categorically. The history of theology shows that bigger names than theirs have erred in the past. As Ludwig Ott observed, "the majority of the Scholastic Theologians wrongly regarded the traditio instrumentorum as the matter of the sacrament of Order."(3) So, while we should lend an attentive ear to the canonists' opinions, there's no guarantee from them that priestly ordination with one hand is valid. Maybe yes, maybe no. It's mere opinion. But, we earnestly inquire, who wants to risk eternity on a mere opinion, no matter how grand a reputation its proponent enjoyed?
That's why the real question is: Why didn't "One Hand" simply and humbly seek out conditional ordination in the '90s to put this issue to rest before he was consecrated? Had charity so counseled, he would have spared the faithful -- and the priests he's ordained -- much vexation.
A PROBLEM OF INFORMATIONAL INTEGRITY
Everything about all this expert evidence boils down to one huge challenge for the general Traddie reader: it's the issue of trust. Do you have confidence in the Blunderer's accuracy and knowledge? Is he motivated to discover the truth, or does he have another agenda? If he mistranslated official papal teaching and put words into a Pope's mouth, would he do the same with his experts?
Well, at least in one case, the answer to the last question is a resounding YES, he would!
In his section on papal episcopal consecrations, Tony Baloney translates a line from Nabuco, an expert on the Roman Pontifical, as follows: "First the bishop, then the bishops present, impose the right hand alone in silence." [Blunderer's emphasis]. In the Latin text he transcribes in footnote 40, we find this: "...prius consecrator, deinde omnes episcopi praesentes, imponebant manum dexteram sub silentio." Apart from the fact that Tone the Latin-less Bonehead translated an imperfect-tense verb ("imponebant") as a present tense ("impose"), we point out that, in the quoted Latin text, there's no word at all corresponding to Tony's "alone." The text, as the Blunderer records it, literally reads, "...they imposed the right hand in silence."
So, now, was it just an oversight or was it deliberate massaging? How many of you have the resources to confirm our challenge by seeking out the original, printed text? Most of you don't. So, the $64,000 question is this: Can you trust the Blunderer here or anywhere else?
You know the answer.
A PROBLEMATIC CLAIM
One particular opinion of the experts Palazzini-De Jorio is of indubitable interest to us. The Blunderer quotes the authors' sweeping judgment: "No one doubts the validity of a priestly ordination or episcopal consecration conferred by the imposition of one hand." Ever smarmy ol' Tony then glosses the opinion by telling us it's a "categorical statement" of experts in canon law and moral theology. He's even so bold as to add, snarkily, that "no one doubts" is "shorthand for 'no one with any brains doubts'" the validity of one-handed ordinations. (Pretty insolent words for such a limited man, we'd say!)
Well, we decided to test this "categorical statement." And we didn't have to look too far afield. In Fr. Lennerz's little work on the sacrament of holy orders, we found the following:
The practice of the Roman Congregations in repairing defects of the ordination of priests done before the Constitution Sacramentum Ordinis is, that the ordination be repeated conditionally, if the defects were either in the imposition of hands (in the beginning of the ordination), or in the handing over of the instruments; it is supposed therefore that such defects can render an ordination invalid. [Our emphasis.](4)And in case you were led astray by the Blunderer's smoke-and-mirrors hocus-pocus about the interchangeability of the words hand and hands, when Lennerz later talks about the defects in a diaconal ordination, he employs the singular, viz. "in the imposition of the hand (in impositione manus).
So, then, it looks as if, pace Palazzini-De Jorio(5), there were doubters of the validity of a priestly ordination handicapped by defective imposition. Moreover, it seems as if the Roman Congregations were concerned enough to specify a remedy for deficiencies related to imposition. Now, we'll say upfront that we don't know for certain whether the doubts about the imposition of hands were related to one-handed impositions or not, but Lennerz's remarks signal that defects of imposition were thought to render a priestly ordination invalid. (And, in light of Pius's official teaching, using one-hand is a defect.) It appears that the ever cautious Roman Congregations -- like Pistrina and others -- opted for the safer side. Whatever the interpretation, Lennerz's note does bear witness that at least one person, most likely someone high up in the Vatican bureaucracy, thought there could be invalidating defects in priestly ordination with respect to the imposition of hands, and consequently he devised a remedy.
Accordingly, it seems as if Palazzini-De Jorio's "categorical statement" was simply a manner of speaking, sort of like, say, the pre-adolescent, summer-camp challenge, "No one doubts that Superman can outrun the Flash." (Yet even the wiseacre champion of that proposition knew his pals would strenuously controvert it in the dorm that evening, long after lights out.) The bottom line is that the phrase counts for nothing. It's just opinion, albeit somewhat emotionally loaded, and it seems to be dead wrong as a fact. Accordingly, nothing the Blunderer supplies in the way of citing theological opinions effectively banishes a prudent man's positive doubt about priestly ordination conferred with one hand.
A PROBLEM FOR NEWLY ENLIGHTENED CLODS ("Close loyalists of Dannie")
Some of you smarter CLODs now see the danger to the Rev. Mr. Nkamuke's future peace of mind. That means you've got to act! Talk to Dannie. If "One-Hand" simply must ordain the Rev. Mr. Nkamuke lest his ego be crushed, then counsel him to seek conditional ordination and consecration. (But he'd better do it in public!) If he refuses, contact the rector immediately (email@example.com) to remind him of his duty to this young cleric and to the faithful who await his return to Africa as an undoubtedly valid Roman Catholic priest.
NEW PROBLEMS NEXT WEEK
In our next installment, we'll take a critical look at the Blunderer's problematic arguments about the "Roman" books. Get ready for some more orderly thinking.
(1) Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (TAN Books), p. 9.
(2) Donald Attwater, A Catholic Dictionary (Macmillan Co.). Another definition of opinion is, "a conclusion resting on a probable or dialectical proof," and the following is even better: "assent to a probable proposition that does not certainly exclude its contradictory as untrue" (Wuellner, Dictionary of Scholastic Philosophy [Bruce]).
(3) Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 455.
(4) De Sacramento Ordinis (Pontificia Universitas Gregoriana), p. 131. "Praxis Congreg. Romanarum in reparandis defectibus ordinationis presbyterorum ante Constitutionem «Sacramentum Ordinis» factae est, ut sub conditione ordinatio iteretur, si defectus erant vel in impositione manuum (in initio ordinationis), vel in traditione instrumentorum; supponitur ergo tales defectus posse ordinationem reddere invalidam.
(5) Actually, we believe that Palazzini-De Jorio were fully aware they were proposing an opinion, and therefore they would not assert as untrue the following "categorical statement": some man with brains doubts the validity of priestly orders conferred with one hand.
(6) In The Adventures of Superman #463, the Scarlet Speedster does, in fact, outpace the Man of Steel.