by Br. Alexis Bugnolo
In this article I will discuss the issues raised by Riccardo Cascioli in his article at the Bussola Quotidiana (Daily Compass), his electronic journal, entitled, “Crisis creates schisms: also Viganò goes his own way”, which appeared on January 11 of this year, here, in English translation.
First, I will note that Cascioli is not a canonist, but a journalist. He is also not a theologian.
Second, I agree with him 100%, that to adequately and properly and virtuously respond to the crisis in the Church we must all respond in a canonically valid manner and not cause schisms in the Church.
But who is causing schism in the Church? — I will reply to that question at the end of this article.
Here, I want to address the canonical accusations made by Cascioli against Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, and former member of the Secretariate for the Vatican City State, under Pope Benedict XVI.
As a matter of fact, no proof worthy of canonical action has been published by anyone demonstrating that Bishop Williamson reconsecrated Archbishop Viganò, since neither has admitted it happened nor is there any video or document declaring the fact. On that basis, the entire article of Cascioli is potentially libel and calumny. And certainly Archbishop Viganò could never be penalized.
But, if the alleged act was perpetrated, are Catholics to now consider Viganò excommunicated?
The Penalty for Consecrating a Bishop in the Code of 1983
To understand the answer to this question, which I will treat of in this article, we need to look to Canon 1382.
Canon 1382 levels a latae sententiae excommunication upon the Bishop who consecrates a man a bishop without Papal mandate and also against the man so consecrated.
There are problems with the interpretation of this canon. First, understanding that only the Roman Pontiff can interpret it, and must do so by a juridical act publishing the interpretation, and given that no Roman Pontiff has interpreted it, we must have recourse to the principles of the Code of Canon Law of 1983 to understand what it says and what it does not say.
The canon reads thus, in the Latin:
1382 Episcopus qui sine pontificio mandato aliquem consecrat in Episcopum, itemque qui ab eo consecrationem recepit, in excommunicationem latae sententiae Sedi Apostolicae reservatam incurrunt.
Which in English would be:
1382. The Bishop who without pontifical mandate consecrates anyone as a Bishop, and likewise he who receives consecration from him, incur an excommunication latae sententiae reserved to the Apostolic See.
According to the norms of canon 17, we must understand all the terms or words in this canon in the proper sense. Thus, it only applies to a Bishop, not to someone pretending to be or who is invalidly ordained a Bishop. Nor does it apply to the execution of a ritual of ordination of a man as a bishop, since in the new pontifical, that ritual is called the “Ordination” not the “Consecration” of a Bishop. So one must understand it referring to the sacramental ritual validly executed.
As has been mentioned frequently since the “excommunication” of Archbishop Lefebre in 1988, we must also distinguish between the crime sanctioned by the canon as a species of malfeasance, and the crime perpetrated by the individual as an act which is capable of punishment. Proper jurisprudence requires in the leveling of ecclesiastical penalties that this distinction be made. And that means that one must not only canonically verify that the crime has been committed but also verify that in perpetrating it it was a delict for the individual, namely, that he was canonically capable of being punished for what he really did.
For example, if a Bishop during a theatrical performance performs the rite of episcopal ordination upon another man, without the intention to consecrate him a Bishop, there is neither the crime nor the delict, because the theatrical performance is not the liturgical ritual, and the Bishop has no intention.
Remember, too, that the ritual effects that a man be reckoned among the bishops of the Church, that is, it ordains him to be of their number. But the sacrament is conferred in the consecration of the man by the Bishop, which requires the laying on of hands and the prayer of consecration.
This is why, by speaking of consecration, not ordination, the canon criminalizes the conferral of the Sacrament not the performance of the ritual.
Did Archbishop Viganò incurr Excommunication by being consecrated sub conditione?
It is clear that he did not, from the norms of Canon Law.
First, because he was not consecrated a Bishop by Msgr. Williamson. For in canon law, the consecration of Archbishop Viganò took place on the Feast of Our Lady of Good Counsel, April 26, in 1992, by means of the hands and prayers of Pope John Paul II. And thus no reiteration of a ritual of consecration effects anything that constitutes the conferral of a sacrament, whether it be done under any condition or not.
Second, because Archbishop Viganò did not lack a papal mandate to be consecrated a Bishop, having had that already from Pope John Paul II. The Archbishop is in fact an Archbishop incardinated at the Vatican, that is in the Diocese of Rome.
Third, because a ritual executed sub conditione, that is, a ritual which is performed a second time for the sake of removing any doubt regarding the completion of the previous ritual is not an episcopal consecration, but a ritual which comprises all the prayers and ceremonies.
So, if one speaks of penalties, one must first decide what to penalize. And thus, if one would want the Archbishop punished for receiving the Sacrament, one would have to concede that the previous consecration by Pope John Paul II was invalid, because only if it were invalid, did the Archbishop receive the Sacrament from Bishop Williamson. — Contrariwise, if the one wanting the penalty imposed holds that the previous consecration were valid, then he must admit that this second performance of the ritual conferred no sacrament and thus does not fall under the terms of this canon.
Thus, in no honest sense of the words of Canon 1382, did Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò incurr a latae sententiae excommunication.
And, thus, even if anyone in the Roman Curia or Pope Francis himself declare that he did because he violated this canon, the declaration is false, since the delict was never committed. And according to the norms of Canon Law no one can be punished except when he is guilty of committing a delict, that is he is responsible for transgressing a canon penalizing a specific action and did in fact transgress it.
So Riccardo Cascioli is wrong and he has both libeled and calumniated the Archbishop, from a website in Italy, and thus can be prosecuted in Italy for defamation and libel, which are serious offenses. — I pray he retracts.
But who is causing schism in the Church?
Using papal authority to obstruct the rights of Catholics to worship God and enjoy the benefits which Christ gave them for their salvation, is obviously a worse crime than acting without papal approval. In fact, if a pope were to sign a heretical profession, he would impede the Apostolic See and then all Catholics could act to save their souls without papal mandate, in whatever manner they deemed necessary. And surely if all Catholics could, then an Archbishop of the Vatican could. This is what I argue in my article on the Impeded See.