Absolutely Null and Utterly Void


Torch of The Faith News on Wednesday 10 May 2017 - 18:07:45 | by admin

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Knuckles and Thumbs: Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio exchanges a handshake and some words with Archbishop Georg Ganswein at the Vatican.

Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio served as an auxiliary bishop under the ''St. Gallen Mafia's'' own modernistic groupie, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini.

In 2014, he intervened to have Fr. Mauro Inzoli reinstated to the priestly state by Pope Francis. It will be remembered that Inzoli had previously been defrocked in the days of Pope Benedict XVI, after being found guilty of the sexual abuse of young children in his pastoral care. Even though Pope Francis invited Inzoli to a life of humility and prayer, he participated in a conference (on the theme of the family, of all things) in January, 2015.

In February this year, Cardinal Coccopalmerio released a book on the problematic eighth chapter of Amoris Laetitia. As you will likely recall, there was some hoo-hah at the time, because Palmerio's book had originally been touted as being some kind of semi-official response to the Dubia. However, that particular narrative crumbled away to nothing, when Coccopalmerio failed to turn up to the book launch of his own text!

Perhaps the most charitable thing that I can find to say about Cardinal Coccopalmerio's book is that it presents its readers with a sacrilegious travesty.

His Eminence is back in the news of the English-speaking world again this week, thanks to an article that first appeared yesterday in the UK's modernistic weekly, The Tablet.

The general tenor of that article can be discerned in the opening heading, which brazenly asserts: Leo XIII's remarks that Anglican orders are ''absolutely null and utterly void'' have been a major stumbling block to Catholic-Anglican unity.

It goes downhill from there!

The sub-heading refers, of course, to Pope Leo XIII's teachings which were so clearly articulated in 1896, through the Magisterial Papal Bull, Apostolicae curae.

Those teachings were reaffirmed in 1998, when the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released a doctrinal commentary to accompany St. John Paul II's apostolic letter, Ad tuendam fidem. This official commentary described Pope Leo XIII's declaration on the nullity of Anglican orders as one of ''those truths connected to revelation by historical neccessity and which are to be held definitively, but are not able to be declared as divinely revealed.''

In blatant disregard for the clarity of these official teachings, Cardinal Coccopalmerio is quoted by The Tablet as saying: ''When someone is ordained in the Anglican church and becomes a parish priest in a community, we cannot say that nothing has happened, that everything is invalid... This is about the life of a person and what he has given... these things are so very relevant!''

In a line which both betrays a decidely relativistic way of thinking, and bears interesting parallels to Pope Francis' most recent outburst against supposed ''rigidity'' in some young Catholics, Cardinal Coccopalmerio has also suggested: ''We have had, and we still have, a very rigid understanding of validity and invalidity: this is valid, and that is not valid. One should be able to say: 'this is valid in a certain context, and that is valid in another context'.''

Well, it would be fun to see how far His Eminence might get in pushing that line, whilst trying to board a plane with an invalid passport one of these days!

It would appear on the face of it that Cardinal Coccopalmerio does not subscribe to the basic philosophical principle of reality; which straightforwardly posits that something cannot be and not be at one and the same time. Any one of us can demonstrate the validity of this principle, simply by looking in the mirror...

We see another example of the cardinal's disturbing subjectivism later in the article at The Tablet, when he claims of the Church's relationships with other ecclesial communities: ''We say: 'you don't have this reality, which is a matter of faith, and therefore you are divided from me.' But in fact, it isn't a matter of faith, you only pretend it to be.''

Given this remarkable level of relativism, it is interesting to note that the cardinal suggests that the only divisions that should exist are those over ''fundamental things'' such as the Divinity of Christ.

Does that then mean that Cardinal Coccopalmerio does not consider the Sacred Priesthood of Jesus Christ to be a ''fundamental'' matter?

It certainly appears that way from his slick sophistry in attempting to bypass the clear teaching and words of Pope Leo XIII.

No matter how friendly one wants to be with Anglicans, we must always readily admit as Catholics, that Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ instituted the Catholic priesthood for the salvation and sanctification of all peoples who would respond to His graces until the end of time.

This is the reason the Church has to be so clear on who is and who is not a validly ordained priest. Only the true priesthood of Jesus Christ has His unfathomable authority and power to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, forgive sins, preach and lead in His Name, and command the demons to obey Our Blessed Lord. 

In the spiritual warfare for souls, only the enemy of Christ and those countless souls would want to see an army becoming equipped with dummy weapons. It really does make all the difference in the world if a priest is a true priest or not. Just ask any exorcist.

I do not say this to be in any way unkind to Protestants. Quite the contrary: Catholics have a duty to defend this truth, in order for all peoples to come to knowledge of the truth for their salvation and sanctification by Christ. We do this that all may be united as one in the truth.

Perhaps in recent times, in the midst of the heat of controversy and polemic, I have sounded somewhat harsh in my articles on Anglicanism.

However, the deepest motivation has hopefully been to expose present errors and point toward the truth for the good of all who read those pieces.

I have no doubt that there are still many good and sincere people serving as Anglican ministers. I have to say that, as a child growing up in Protestant circles, I met a good number of vicars who would have been utterly scandalized by the attitudes, irreverences and worldliness of some Catholic priests that I have known. I also remember a good Anglican community wherein the vicar and folk gathered around my family to support us in the wake of the tragic death of a family member in 1983. As a Catholic, I have to admit that we never had that kind of support when my dear father died in 2012.

But this is not really the point.

Christ's Catholic Church and priesthood are just that: they are Christ's. As such they have His institutional foundation, His ongoing authority and His inifinite power to save and heal souls.

Aside from the relativistic philosophical errors present in Cardinal Coccopalmerio's sophistry, another key weakness is his insistence that what the Anglican minister has given is so relevant to the question of validity. 

From a Catholic perspective, this appears almost Pelagian. It is suggestive of a very post-modern Christology ''from below''.

In charity, I think it right that we should acknowledge that Anglican ministers who have given their lives to Christ and their flocks, at least according to the lights they have received, should be given the credit for that.

However, in theological terms, this expresses only their sincerity. It can in no way impact on whether or not their ''orders'' were valid.

This is because the sacred priesthood of Christ is an objective reality; which is given and received in objective ways by the very authority of Christ and His Church. That is to say by the valid ordination ceremony given by a validly consecrated bishop ordaining priests according to the mind and heart of the Church.

When the Catholic Church insists that Anglican ''orders'' are completely null and utterly void, this is not done in a kind of ''Yah Boo Sucks!'' kind of way - and I am sorry if some of my more polemical contributions have given that impression - but rather so that all can find, and receive salvation and healing from, Christ's true priesthood in the Church which He founded.

Perhaps typically, given the subjectivism of his overall approach in the article at The Tablet, Cardinal Coccopalmerio's concluding words on the matter suggest that the situation regarding a ''revision'' of Pope Leo XIII's words is currently somewhat ''unclear''.

If, like most people who think the issue through with the help of God's grace, you are one of those people who recognizes that a thing cannot be and not be at the same time, whilst also preferring a little more clarity and substance when it comes to the matter of your eternal salvation (!), then you will likely gain great spiritual benefit from prayerfully reading Pope Leo XIII's Apostolicae curae. It is Magisterial teaching, after all.

As Shakespeare noted: To be, or not to be, now that really is the question!