Monday, March 6, 2017

A Challenge for the Feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas

Something has bothered the Rad Trad for years, readers. It is the issue of valid ordinations to the diaconate and the priesthood, both the lower and higher degrees. Every Sacrament has an abbreviated version that can be used to emergencies (Baptism on a crashing plane, Absolution or Confirmation in articulo mortis) except for the Eucharist and Holy Order.

When we speak of the intent behind a Sacrament we do not, as many believe, speak of the inner faith of the person confecting the Sacrament; we speak of the intention symbolized in the external forum where a Sacrament is celebrated. Communion cannot come to be in any context other than in the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice at the hands of one given the power to do so by a successor of the Apostles. A priest in good standing cannot walk into Trader Joe's, turn to the bakery aisle and say the essential form "This is my body", then face the booze and speak "This is my blood" and expect something to have happened.

Ordination is more complicated, if only because it is less discussed. It is the only Sacrament that is always celebrated in full, without reduced ceremony, within the context of the Eucharistic sacrifice. No short form exists; no extra Missam form exists, at least to my knowledge. While historically one might say that all Sacraments were once celebrated within the context of the Eucharist—save Marriage—Ordination is the only one that does not seem to have budged for a moment. Beyond historical circumstance and the rite's rarity in contrast to Baptism, Marriage, and the rest that most receive, why?

Give your best Thomistic response and do the Angelic Doctor well. If anyone answers in the structure of an article that commentator will receive a free crayon!


  1. I don't think Thomism dealt with a lot of the "why" questions because the scheme of article, with it's objections and responses to objections, points to a "yes" or "no" question, and that's why one wouldn't be able to answer this question in a fashion of an article.
    For how can a man answer a "why" with a "yes" or "no". One can only proceed from a given "because" to question this "because" with "is it so" or "is it no".

    I can only say that it's celebrated within the context Eucharistic sacrifice because both sacraments were instituted during the same event, namely the last Supper of Our Lord.

  2. "While historically one might say that all Sacraments were once celebrated within the context of the Eucharist—save Marriage—Ordination is the only one that does not seem to have budged for a moment."

    What about Anointing of the Sick?

  3. ^Good one. Especially when one considers that the Sacred Scriptures imply that the one who is sick actually has to call the elders since he cannot go to them himself.

  4. Since Ordination is necessary as a sacrament for the church as a whole, but not for the individual believer, I doubt the necessity to ordain somebody in articulo mortis – in contrast to baptism, confirmation or confession in peril of death.

    To this and the intimate relation of the major orders and the Eucharistic sacrifice already mentioned by Marko Ivančičević I would like to add the fact that Ordinations were only held on Ember Saturdays (and Saturday before Passion Sunday and Holy Saturday), with the examination of the ordinands in the preceding days. Ordinations outside of the canonical dates were very rare (and had to be allowed by the apostolic see).

  5. @Marco: semantics

    @Protasius: I am not necessarily asking why there is no short version of the Sacrament as I am asking whether it is absolutely necessary to ordain during the offering of the Eucharist, since that seems to be all that has ever been done by any ancient Church.

    I think Pius IX was ordained a priest on Holy Saturday. A shame his successor in name abolished that noble practice, although I believe at least one English bishop kept it in 1956.

  6. Dear The Rad Trad: thank you for a stimulating and gratifying post! I plan to submit the second part of my St. Thomas series later today, if that won't "step on" your and J's contributions.

    Dear Marko: oftentimes S. Thomas poses the "quaestio" in the form: "Is it necessary that, etc.?" and supplies the "why" in the explanation of why something is fitting or necessary.

    Now as to the challenge thrown down by TRT (forgive the long comment), I will crib shamelessly from the Angelic Doctor himself (III, Q. 78, a. 1, ad 4um) to address first whether or not the words alone would be sufficient (though in the context of the Holy Eucharist):

    "... some have said that this Sacrament cannot be perfected [confected] by pronouncing the words [of consecration] with everything else left out, especially those words which are in the canon of the Mass. But this is clearly false: both from the words of S. Ambrose given above [in the "Sed Contra," from the "De Sacramentis"] and then again because the canon of the Mass is not the same everywhere, nor in every age ....

    "Therefore, it must be concluded that if a priest pronounces the aforementioned words only with the intention of confecting this Sacrament, this Sacrament is confected, because the intention causes these words to be understood as it were as pronounced by the Person of Christ, even if this is not said with the words which precede it. Nevertheless, a priest would sin gravely confecting the Sacrament in this way, because the rite of the Church was not adhered to. Nor is it a case similar to Baptism, which is a Sacrament of necessity, whereas the lack of this Sacrament [H. Eucharist] can be supplied by a spiritual reception, as S. Augustine says."

    1. Whether what you said defends TRT?
      It would seem that it does because you say that st. Thomas uses "Why" questions in his Summa, and that therefore, TRT is justified.

      Sed contra, what is cited is not the questio, but the respondeo and moreover, those aren't questions but actual reasons.
      Respondeo. The question is about the initial question, but not to the reasons given to support the response on the question.
      As you yourself have stated, st. Thomas asks: "Is it necessary...", and again, that is not a question of causality, but of essence. The question "why", or rather the answers "because" are the reasons which give support to his answers, and as i've said those aren't real "why"'s, but actually "because"'s, i.e. they aren't questions but answers.

    2. Dear Marko: I'm going to try to reply in the same vein; so please bear with me.

      1. "You say that St. Thomas uses 'Why' questions in his Summa, etc."--Nego; sed transeat.

      2. "Sed contra, what is cited is not the questio [sic] but the respondeo and moreover, those aren't questions but actual reasons." Nego. As you know, the "Questions" and "titles" are the work of editors; St. Thomas always begins an article (in the Summa and elsewhere) thus: "Ad [primum, secundum, etc.] sic proceditur. Videtur quod, etc." ["To the (nth article) we proceed thus. It seems that, etc."] Further, in III, Q. 1, a. 1, he writes: "We proceed thus to the first [article]: it seems that it was not fitting for God to become incarnate, etc." Do the objections and the answer (Respondeo) in reply constitute the question "why"? Distinguo. According to the grammatical form, nego; according to the matter at hand, affirmo. This question, and others, could in fact be retitled: "Cur Deus Homo?" but that name was already taken.

      3. "St. Thomas asks:'Is it necessary ...' and again, that it not a question of causality, but of essence." Distinguo. If by "necessary" one intends the essence of some thing (such as God, Who is the Necessary Being), it is indeed a question of the essence, as such should be self-explanatory. However, if by "necessary" one intends to posit a question regarding an existing thing which is, by its essence, not necessary but contingent, then one is necessarily (paronomasia not intended) though indirectly asking why (propter quid?) it in fact exists. One example might be in III, Q. 1, a. 3, whether a cause of the Incarnation is the sin of Adam? Surely this article would answer in part the question as to why God became man.

    3. 1. You say this: "oftentimes S. Thomas poses the "quaestio" in the form: "Is it necessary that, etc.?" and supplies the "why" in the explanation of why something is fitting or necessary."

      2. I know how st. Thomas begins his articles, but the category of his beginning is a thesis of which validity he questions, and therefore one could say that it's a question.
      Now, the theses never deal with the "Why" of something, but with "is" or "is not" of something, and that's why i said those questions aren't of causality but of essence. But when he answers the "is" or "is not" of something he supports it with "why" that "is", or "why" that "is not".

      3. You misunderstand. I wasn't talking about God not being necessary. I was talking about what kind of question it is, i.e., what kind of answer does the answer does the question itself seek.

      You provide an excellent example to prove my point.
      "III, Q. 1, a. 3, whether a cause of the Incarnation is the sin of Adam?"

      Now he doesn't ask: "Why x?", but "Whether y is the cause of x?".

      The answer to the first question is "y", but the answer to the second question is "it is" or "it is not". The first question is therefore a question which makes an inquiry of causality of something, and the second question is a question which makes an inquiry whether something is or isn't such and such.

      Why x.
      Because y.
      (And it's only here that st. Thomas begins.)
      Whether x is because of y? It seems that it is not...

      And thus, again, one cannot answer the "why" of connection of ordination and Eucharist in a Thomistic manner. One can only give reasons, and only then can one posit those reasons like
      "Whether ordination is always done in context of Eucharistic sacrifice because Our Lord instituted both sacraments at the same time?
      It seems that it is..."

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  8. A. 1. Whether this is just a question of semantics?
    Objection 1. It seems that to request that an answer to a question about causes of things be given in a Thomistic fashion is only a matter of semantics, for the reason that the answers to those questions form theses from which Thomistic articles can be formed.

    Sed contra. Qui bene distinguit bene docet.
    Respondeo. Catholic Encyclopedia in it's article "Scholasticism" says: "All, however, adopt the manner of treatment by which thesis, objections, and solutions of objections stand out distinctly in the discussion of each problem.".

    What one gathers from this is that in scholastic method there first must be a thesis to which objections are raised, to which in turn replies are given.
    Now to a question about causality no objections can be raised but first answers must be given, which are then transformed to theses, to which only then objections can be raised.

    For example, the answer to the question about causality of rising and setting of the Sun is: "The Earth rotates on it's axis.". It is obvious that to the first question no objections can be raised since the nature of the question is such that it would be nonsensical to give such an answer. A question "Why" asks for an answer "Because", but the Thomistic disputation is formed from questions of essence (esse) of things, i.e. "Whether this is so?", to which an objection is raised: "It seems that it is not so.", and to which in turn a reply is given. So to continue with the example one would have to ask a question: "Whether it is the Earth's rotation that makes the Sun rise and set?", and so on.
    From this we can conclude that a causal question is a level above questions of essence.

    Therefore, the question at hand is not a matter of semantics, but requires that a question be formed from it's answer in order that an article, akin to that of the Summa of st. Thomas, could be made.

    Ad primum. The response suffices.

  9. (This is the second part of my inexcusably long comment.) St. Thomas remarks that a priest would sin gravely (in only using the words of consecration) because he does not follow the rite of the Church. Why are the Church's rites in this matter so inflexibly to be followed? The answer lies in the "Sed Contra" which the Saint gives in III, Q. 83, a. 5 in regard to the ceremonies of Mass but equally applicable, I think, to Holy Orders: "Sed in contrarium est Ecclesiae consuetudo, quae errare non potest, utpote Spiritu Sancto instructa": "To the contrary [regarding the objections] is the custom of the Church, which is not able to err insofar as [she is] instructed by the Holy Spirit."

    In brief, then: priests are ordained and then immediately made to exercise the power of Orders in confecting the Holy Eucharist (along with the Bishop), but one may not confect the Eucharist without the other rites of Mass, in accordance with the immemorial and universal custom of the Church (in general, not in the specific ceremonies, which differ), and she is in such cases instructed by the Holy Spirit Himself.

    By the way, I vehemently agree with the sentiment that all priestly (et al.) ordinations should be done on Ember Saturdays: it's a very ancient tradition, and it's only too fitting that a man receive the priesthood (speaking from experience here) in the violet of penance and unworthiness, rather than the white of triumph and perfection.

  10. Without delving into this neo-thomistic writing party, let me offer two relatively recent examples of bizarre ordinations: that of Fr Eugene Hamilton (1996) and that of Fr William Carmona (2014). Hamilton was ordained by then-Bishop Edwin O'Brien as the former lay on his deathbed. He died hours after his diaconal and presbyteral ordination without ever having celebrated Mass. Fr Benedict Groeschel gives us Fr Hamilton's story in Forever: The Life of Eugene Hamilton. Carmona, a native of Columbia, was ordained deacon and priest in his hospital room while lying unconscious in his bed. Bishop Choby of Nashville was the ordaining bishop and he was accompanied by dozens of priests and seminarians. A full liturgical celebration was served in the hospital room. Apparently, Carmona gave some form of consent to ordination before he became unconscious. Carmon died two or three days after ordination, never having regained consciousness.

    The 1996 case of Fr Hamilton was seemingly done entirely out of a Eucharistic context. The 2014 case was done within the Sacred Liturgy, but the ordinand was unconscious. Moving examples of humility and piety, yes, but rightfully motivated, that remains to be discussed.

    1. Interesting cases! Of course, they are anomalies of one sort or another, but the exception proves (tests) the rule.

      One technical quibble: at best, this "writing party" (as you so drolly refer to it) is Neo-Scholastic at best, not Neo-Thomist (which would hardly be radically traditional).
      Best regards,

    2. Agreed. I wanted to write 'scholastic' instead of 'thomistic,' but only noticed my mistake after hitting the Publish button. And it is a kind of party, isn't it? This is the best form of entertainment during the Lenten season.

  11. There is also the question of ordinations and consecrations done in prisons or camps.

  12. There is also the question of ordinations and consecrations done in prisons or camps.

  13. Dear F. A., I don't remember the particulars, but I do remember there is a description of priestly ordinations in Dachau in the memoir "Christ in Dachau." From what I recall, the ordinations took place in the Catholic chapel in the usual way, but maybe you've read it and can refresh my memory.