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Frequently Asked Questions—Bishops Without Papal Mandate?

    FAQ: How can you ordain [consecrate] bishops without a mandate from Pope John Paul II [now Pope Benedict XVI] ?

    The answer to the Most Reverend Bishop's question is twofold:

    (1) Historically, the Old Roman Catholic Church claims the right of its clergy to elect their bishops because this was the right of the Church of Utrecht at the time of Archbishop Peter Codde's death and the consecration of his successor by Bishop Varlet in 1739. The Church in the Netherlands

    (2) In justice, we claim the same right because of the failure of the post-Vatican II Church to provide the Sacraments to the faithful on a reliable basis, and the failure of its leaders to teach the traditional tenets of faith and morals. Letter to a New Convert on Why Modernism Must be Resisited

    For many years the Holy See recognized the election of bishops as a prerogative of the people and/or clergy of the diocese in question. In its origins, the College of Cardinals, was an expression of this tradition, being composed of the suffragan bishops of the Archdiocese of Rome (cardinal bishops), the priests of the Diocese of Rome (cardinal priests), and its deacons (cardinal deacons). For a long time it was fixed at 53 or 54 members, reflecting the number and Roman character of the electors.

    Lateran II more or less standardized the election of bishops by the cathedral chapter of the diocese. ("More or less," because there were often political concordats to be dealt with, modifying the accepted norm -- even in Papal elections.) Gratian's Decretals recognize this right, and the Decretals, in turn, were recognized by Pope Gregory VIII.

    During the first thousand years of the Church the Holy Father's influence over the Church was primarily doctrinal. The politics of the Roman Empire and its successor governments, and the general difficulties in communication and transportation preserved the traditional situation until some time around the first millennium. The pre-millennial Popes depended on favorable alliances with secular princes and kings to preserve the unique status and property rights of the Papal States.

    For a brief time after the millennium, the Papacy exercised genuine political power relative to the secular rulers of the Western Empire. Innocent III actually exercised the power about which Gregory VII only dreamed. But even at the zenith of Papal power -- or, perhaps, as the means by which that zenith was reached -- individual dioceses and bishops retained a great deal of autonomy. Bishops politically answerable to no one, who "ran their own show," so to speak, were as valuable to the Pope as they were dangerous to the Emperor or to the King. Outside of his own Metropolitanate and the Papal States, the Pope was content to let people and dioceses and bishops determine their own organizational destinies.

    Papal power peaked somewhere in the 13th century. At its beginning, most historians recognize Pope Innocent III as the most powerful man on earth -- at its close nearly everyone recognizes the pontificate of Pope Boniface VIII as "the beginning of the end." At least some of Boniface's bishops in France sided with King Philip the Fair against the Pope as tax collector. By the end of Boniface's pontificate it beginning to be seen that the civil governments of Europe could no longer be relied upon to support the Church as they had for the past few centuries.

    The reaction of the Church was mixed. The Papal government at Avignon became much more "centrist" than ever before. A decree from Avignon became necessary to occupy many of the benefices of the Church. (There was even a "futures market" in that one could purchase an "expectative" on a benefice that would become available later on.) Under Pope John XXII, Avignon instituted a profitable system of charges for a variety of papal services. Yet the captivity of the Papacy at Avignon probably did more to return the government of the Church to the bishops. It led to a Council being necessary to depose the three men who claimed to be Pope. The conciliar movement might have been successful were it not for continued threats by Islam, and the progressive secularization of civil government. The threat of having the Church dismembered by infidels and nationalists motivated the previously independent bishops to accept and defend a strong central government of the Church in Rome. The 1917 Code institutionalized the requirement for a papal mandate to consecrate a bishop, under penalty of suspension. The penalty was changed to excommunication in 1958, in reaction to the establishment of the "Peoples' Church" in Communist China.

    The issue of Jansen's false condemnation having become a dead letter by the 1950s, the Old Roman Catholic Church was prepared to stop ordaining new priests and bishops. It seemed no longer to fulfill any purpose. However, within twenty years, a new purpose became clear. The Second Vatican Council, by its own account acting without dogmatic authority, issued several documents in direct conflict with the Catholic Faith: Religious indifferentism, a distortion of the ends and indissolubility of marriage, and a sort of utopian socialism were championed by the Modernist church. The authority of the Church was severely undermined by the example of a Council called in response to a "voice in the ear of the Pope," the subsequent spread of "Catholic" Pentecostalism, the poorly defined notion of "collegiality," and numerous demonstrations that not all bishops were not honorable men. After the Council, the Mass and the sacraments were modified along Calvinist lines, making most of them doubtful from the traditional perspectives of matter, form, minister, and intention.

    Our Lord died for us on the Cross that we might know His Truth and receive His Sacraments in order to work out our salvation. No one -- not even the Pope in Rome -- has thee authority to take these things away from us.



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