His Holiness Benedict’s Declaratio and the Myth of Substantial Error – Part III

His Holiness Benedict’s Declaratio and the Myth of Substantial Error – Part III

His Holiness Benedict XVI’s Declaratio
and the Myth of “Substantial Error”

Part III



This is Part III of a five-part series by Colombian attorney and author Estefanía Acosta. Here she dissects the “Substantial Error theory” as propounded more recently by Prof. Ed Mazza, about which I interviewed him here in Episode 248.

Acosta takes the entire argument into account as reducible to absurdity, not to mention practically impossible (that Latin scholar Pope Benedict XVI , based on his own erroneous understanding of the papacy didn’t quite know how to properly resign from it).

This is an important element of the debate over the evidence Benedict is Pope.

Do yourself a favor and get two copies of Acosta’s terrific book, Benedict XVI: Pope “Emeritus”?  One for you, one for a friend.



Second theory of substantial error:

“The Papacy As a Sacrament”

  1. Two ecclesiological positions: before and after the Second Vatican Council

According to this second theory of substantial error, Ratzinger would have assumed a mistaken ecclesiological conception regarding the origin and characteristics of the “power of order” (potestas ordinis) and the “power of jurisdiction” (potestas iurisdictionis), of which the sacred ministers in the Church (and specifically the bishops) are holders, a conception that in turn would have led him to identify in the Papacy an indelible, ad vitam, sacramental essence, not susceptible to extinction by any means (not even by “renunciation”).

The theory in question is based, at first, on an elementary distinction: while the power of order enables the bishops for everything related to the liturgy and the sacraments, the power of jurisdiction empowers them to juridically direct a given diocese and issue teachings of magisterial value (binding for the faithful). And, second, the same theory develops some explanations–inexact, as we will see–about the “two (opposed) ecclesiological positions” that currently circulate in relation to the origin and characteristics of one and the other power.

Thus, we are told that, according to the “traditional” position of the Church—which would be the “correct” or “orthodox” position—the power of order derives directly from the sacrament, from episcopal consecration, from God Himself, and has an indelible ontological character.

In other words, this power of order modifies, once and for all, the very being of the one consecrating. The power of jurisdiction, on the other hand, is transmitted through the missio canonica, which would be given by the juridical-administrative act, carried out by the Pope, in the appointment of the one consecrating as diocesan bishop; that is, in charge of the care of a certain diocese. The power of jurisdiction, then, unlike that of order, may be extinguished: thus, for example, given the removal or resignation of the bishop in question, he would only lose the title of his ecclesiastical charge or office, but not the fullness of the priesthood, the third and highest degree of the Sacrament of Orders.

This first position, it is added, conceives the Papacy as a mere office (Papa est nomen iurisdictionis). This is so because, from the sacramental point of view, nothing differentiates the Roman Pontiff, Bishop of Rome, from the other bishops, while, from the jurisdictional point of view, the difference is clear: only the Pope has a “primacy of jurisdiction,” because he has full and universal magisterial and governmental faculties; that is, comprehensive of all doctrinal/moral and disciplinary matters, and extensive to all the dioceses, to the Universal Church[i]. Being, then, the papacy pure jurisdiction, pure office, its extinction through resignation is perfectly possible: just as for the acquisition of the Primacy mediates the positive will or acceptance on the part of the one who has been elected Pope, in the same way it becomes viable the loss of the Primate through the corresponding will to resign.

From the second ecclesiological position—which would be the “novel,” “incorrect” or “heterodox” one—it is explained to us that both the power of order and the power of jurisdiction would derive from the sacramental act of episcopal consecration and, therefore, from God Himself. This is indicated, we are told, by the Constitution Gaudium et Spes [sic[ii]] of the Second Vatican Council, by declaring that episcopal consecration confers on the consecrated person the tria munera (three functions or commissions): to sanctify (liturgical/sacramental aspect: this function would correspond to the power of order; to teach (magisterial aspect); and to rule or govern (juridical aspect)—and these two functions would correspond to the power of jurisdiction.

In any case, however, the exercise of such munera requires the hierarchical communion of the one consecrating with the pope and the other bishops, which occurs precisely through the respective episcopal appointment by the pope (with which the missio canonica is conferred)[iii]. Where does this second ecclesiological position come from? To tell the truth, the one who exposes it to us does not make clear if it is found in the Vatican II texts themselves or in the interpretation that certain theological currents have made of them (eg., Joseph Ratzinger, Karl Rahner, Henri de Lubac etc.)[iv].

Let us now state and examine the reasons why we are told this second ecclesiological position is “erroneus.”

  1. “Errors” in (post)conciliar/Ratzingerian ecclesiology:

2.1. The “annulment” of the conceptual difference between power of order and power of jurisdiction

In the first place, we are told, (post)conciliar ecclesiology annuls the distinction between episcopal consecration and appointment, and asserts that it is from the former that power of jurisdiction (the faculties of governing and teaching) derives. That is, this ecclesiology maintains that “jurisdiction is merely something that flows from the sacrament, and not something distinct.”[v] In this way, ecclesiology is reduced to the merely sacramental, to the detriment of the juridical, and this in open contrast to the “prior doctrine of ecclesiology,” under which it was understood that power of government or jurisdiction was obtained as a result of a pontifical juridical act.[vi]

In support of this critical observation we are offered the perspective of Roberto De Mattei:

“This doctrine [prior to Vatican II, related to the distinction between Power of Order and Power of Jurisdiction]…has also been the common practice of the Church for twenty centuries, can be considered one of divine law, and as such unchangeable. Vatican Council II did not explicitly reject the concept of potestas, but set it aside, replacing it with an equivocal new concept, that of “munus.” Art. 21 of Lumen Gentium then seems to teach that episcopal consecration confers not only the fullness of orders, but also the office of teaching and governing, whereas in the whole history of the Church the act of episcopal consecration has been distinguished from that of appointment, or of the conferral of the canonical mission. This ambiguity is consistent with the ecclesiology of the theologians of the Council and post-council (Congar, Ratzinger, de Lubac, Balthasar, Rahner, Schillebeeckx…) who presumed to reduce the mission of the Church to a sacramental function, scaling down its juridical aspects…”[vii]

In a similar sense, we are offered the critical view proposed by the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX):

“Now, the Society of Saint Pius X, on their French website has an article about this. This is one of the things the Society finds troubling about Nouvelle Théologie and Vatican II and everything that’s happened since then. Is that […] if you say that jurisdiction is merely something that flows from the sacrament and not something, you know, distinct… well they speculate […] that what these Vatican II guys are trying to do is heal the wound with the Orthodox by coming up with an ecclesiology that is totally sacramental instead of juridical.”[viii]

Finally, as developments of this second (and “erroneous”) ecclesiological position, we are presented[ix] with two quotes from Mansini and E. Corecco, which in their order read like this:

“This means that the one ordaining should ordinarily be expected to have administrative power over the church in question. Episcopal ordination gives this expectation; if it does not give jurisdiction according to St. Thomas, the sacramental power it does give can be thought of as itself a basic power of ruling. What is given, to be sure, as it were calls for jurisdiction and makes it suitable that one so ordained have jurisdiction.”

“This power, however, is not identified with that of jurisdiction, because jurisdiction can be taken away, while the power of the bishop to confer the priesthood and confirmation is never lost. It is a power of ruling that has as its duties those specific to the head of a society of Christians, for example that of conferring tasks and offices, of pasturing the People of God, of defending the People from errors. This kind of power is not something more of less than what priests also have; it is a power of a different kind that can be communicated to priests through delegation.”

Now, how true is it that Vatican II introduced an entirely sacramental ecclesiology, to the detriment of the juridical aspect, and that it subsumed the power of jurisdiction in the sacrament of (episcopal) consecration?

In this regard, we must say that statements like this are only sustained under the narrative of the traditionalist myth, which defends the radical and complete incompatibility between the texts of the Council and the preceding magisterium of the Church,[x] and, consequently, the logical impossibility of the “hermeneutics of continuity.”[xi]

The truth is that in no way should said documents be read in the sense of a contrast between “the Church as a mystical reality” and “the Church as an institutional reality,” between the spiritual and the juridical, between the episcopacy and the papacy; but rather, as an articulation of these aspects, based on the concepts of “communion” and “sacrament.”

Indeed, the Council welcomed an ecclesiology centered on the Eucharist, considering that it is there where the invisible and the corporeal, charity, and law, spirit and office converge:

“[…] it is clear that the Eucharistic celebration certainly gives the notion of body of Christ its concrete support, saving it from being spiritually diluted by placing it in a visible order, in a “corporeal” reality. But it is equally clear that it excludes all juridical and ritualistic fossilization, and pushes with powerful energy the interior and personal fulfillment of being Christian. Here, in reality, there is no longer any separation between charity and law, between the visible and invisible Church, but rather the true heart of the Church is reached, in which both realities, so often dissociated in fact, are unified. […] [F]rom a punctual consideration of the Eucharistic celebration follows not only the requirement of charity, but also the imperative of order. […] Thus, a Church that understands herself through the Eucharist as the body of Christ, is not only a Church of those who love, but with the same necessity a Church of sacred order, a Church hierarchically ordered (hierarchy = sacred order).”

In fact, Ratzinger himself explains to us, the (Eucharistic) Body of Christ is the starting point of the bond of unity, both spiritual and juridical, of the particular Churches, reciprocally, and of these with Rome: “[…] the ancient Church understood the concrete form of her unity, more or less, like this: feeling herself the community of the supper.

Each particular local community saw itself as the representation, as the manifestation of the one Church of God and celebrated the mystery of the body of Christ under the presidency of the bishop and his presbytery. The unity between the “particular churches”, which were felt to represent the universal Church, was not of an administrative nature, but consisted in the fact that they “communioned” with each other; that is to say, they reciprocally admitted to communion with them the members of other communities who were present. With heretics (sometimes individuals, sometimes entire communities), communion was not taken, they were not admitted to the society of communion of the Orthodox churches, being excluded from the Church and declared as heretics.

Conversely, the heretical groups formed among themselves similar societies of communion, which for their part communed with each other, but not with the great Church. But how to know whether or not a stranger or pilgrim really belonged to the Orthodox society of communion? Here the episcopal principle of order for the Eucharistic celebration was at work. The Christian who traveled to another community received from his bishop the letter or letters of communion, which accredited him as a member of the communion society of the great Church. For this procedure each bishop had lists with the member communities of the great Orthodox communion.

On this point, however, Rome was always held, so to speak, as the exponent of the right society of communion. It was an axiom that whoever communed with Rome communed with the true Church; he with whom Rome does not commune does not belong to right communion, does not belong in the full sense to the “Body of Christ.” Rome, the city of the princes of the apostles Peter and Paul, presides over the general communion of the Church, the bishop of Rome concretizes and represents the unity, which the Church receives from the Lord’s supper.

Thus the unity of the Church is not based primarily on having a unitary central government, but on living from the only supper, from the only meal of Christ. This unity of Christ’s meal is ordered and has its supreme principle of unity in the bishop of Rome, who makes this unity concrete, guarantees it and maintains it in its purity. Whoever is not in harmony with him separates himself from the full communion of the indivisibly one Church. From all of which it follows that the theological place of the primacy is in turn the Eucharist, in which office and spirit, law and charity have their common center, which here also find their common point of departure.”[xii]

This renewed “Eucharistic foundation” of ecclesiology—with which, let us repeat, the juridical and the sacramental were “reconciled”—in turn shed a new light on the episcopate and collegiality.

As is known, medieval theology, starting from the separation between the notions of “power of order” (ordo) and “power of jurisdiction” (jurisdictio)—referring respectively to the confection of the Eucharist (the Corpus Verum of Christ) and to the government of the communities of the faithful (the Corpus Mysticum of Christ)—had rejected the conception of the episcopate as a degree proper to the Sacrament of Holy Orders and, to a certain extent, overlooked collegiality as a constitutive element of the episcopate. Under this perspective, what was proper to the bishop was jurisdiction (and this over a certain diocese). From the sacramental point of view, the episcopate would add nothing new (as a “higher degree”), since priestly ordination conferred in itself (to the ordained priest) the full power to change the bread.

But by virtue of the ecclesiology centered on communion—which ultimately opened the way to the conception of the episcopate as the full degree of the priestly order—it was highlighted how the Eucharistic celebration and the juridical (and collegial) union in the Church are intimately linked and converge in the episcopal functions:

“Because the Eucharist is not the isolated act of consecration that the priest performs by himself and solely by virtue of an accidens physicum, which is inherent to him—that is, by virtue of the sacramental character without relation to others and to the Church. No, the Eucharist is by essence sacramentum Ecclesiae; between the Eucharistic body and the mystical body of the Lord there is an indissoluble union, in such a way that one cannot be thought of without the other. […] [I]n the sacramental, the collegial is present; furthermore, the Eucharist is by its essence the sacrament of Christian brotherhood, of reciprocal union through union with Christ.


Thoroughly the sacramental idea has an inherent community aspect; the sacrament is not a physical reality, to which a regime power would later be ordered, but rather it is by itself the insertion in a new community and is instituted for the service of the community.

For the rest, this appears quite clearly in the structure of the Eucharistic liturgy. Its subject is the “we” of the holy people of God and its internal place is the communion of saints, which already appears in the confíteor and in the prayers that frame the account of the institution.

The memory of the illustrious army of saints of the universal Church and especially of the local church of Rome, evoked in the Communicantes and in the Nobis quoque, is clearly placed before the soul; the retrospective look at Abel—Melchizedek—Abraham, the great types of the sacrifice of Christ in the old alliance in the Supra quae; the memory of the living and the deceased of the community in both mementos; finally the mention of the local bishop and of the universal bishop of the apostolic sedes of Rome and all the orthodox participants in Christian worship already in the first sentence of the canon, are much more than mere ornaments, they are the intimate and necessary expression of the xoivwvta of the Eucharistic act.

The mention of the Bishop of Rome is here a representative and synthetic expression of how the Eucharistic celebration is ordered within the whole of the communio ecclesiarum, by which the Eucharistic celebration that takes place here appears as a true participation in the indivisible body of Christ that the Church receives in common. For this reason, this mention is not merely an expression of the primacy of the bishop of Rome, but of the concentration in him of the society of communion, and represents both vicariously the collegiality of the bishops and the fraternity of the churches in general.”[xiii]

“For current theology it is clear once again that corpus verum and corpus mysticum are ordered to one another; the corpus verum of the Lord is given to us so that through it the corpus mysticum may be edified and so that in the edification of the corpus mysticum the meaning of the gift of the corpus verum may be completed. Thus, the service to one cannot be separated from the service to the other, but both are a single service to the body of the Lord.

If we now apply these reflections specifically to the episcopal office, we can say that, in fact, that office is ordained to the corpus mysticum; but, precisely because it is, it has to do specifically with the Eucharist and with the true essence of the sacrament of Holy Orders. As the bishop is at the service of the unity of communion in the Church and cares for the communion of the particular church with the other episcopal churches and, at the top, with the Church of Rome, he is therefore at the service of the essential requirement of communion, which has been willed by the Lord as a bond of unity and only receives its internal legitimacy when it is fulfilled as such.

Now, in this way the episcopal consecration fully becomes the place where the sacrament and the law, the collegiality of the ministers and the unity of the universal Church are indissolubly interpenetrated. The episcopate is edified collegially and must be collegial because, by its very nature, it represents the service to the unity of the Church; that, for her part, is not only an egalitarian organization imposed from above, but a horizontal community of those who believe and commune with each other.

Precisely as such an office of union, in which the coordination of the ministers is included, it does not represent a mandate of mere external organization but is the actualization of sacramentality itself: the order of the Church is born from the sacrament and the sacrament entails the mandate of the order. Now, in this way the sacrament appears not as a simple gift to the individual, but rather, starting from its internal meaning, as an insertion in an “order”; that is to say, insertion in the community of those who together administer the services of the Church of God and who can only administer them together; jurisdiction, conversely, is there as the concrete development of what was placed in the sacrament, a development that, of course, must be juridically determined in its details through the positive designation of special domains of jurisdiction and through all the positive legislation of the Church in general.”[xiv].

Thus, it is not that in the ecclesiology of Vatican II the episcopal office has been reduced to a mere sacrament, but that its sacramental root or connection has been “rescued.” However, we could still ask ourselves the question: how then, in such ecclesiology, does the notion of “power of jurisdiction” fit?

At this point we will have to refute the idea that, after Vatican II, the “power of jurisdiction” ceased to be something new or different from what the one consecrating receives in the sacrament. What the Lumen Gentium Constitution in its Preliminary Note of Explanation wants to emphasize is that, since the bishops are not mere officials of the Pope, for their office is of divine institution,[xv] the “power of jurisdiction” that is conferred on them through the missio canonica (which currently materializes, in the West, in the pontifical juridical act of episcopal appointment[xvi]) comes to be something like the actualization or concretion, in a set of territorially and personally delimited competences (that is, in a specific juridical relationship vis-à-vis to the subjects of a given diocese), of what is granted virtually or potentially with the sacrament of episcopal consecration.

In other words, the munus of teaching and governing (which make up the power of jurisdiction) are not alien to the spiritual and supernatural gift that is communicated from Above with the sacrament: they are present there as a seed, or rather, as an ontological qualification, so that the one consecrating comes to be inserted into the community of episcopal service and becomes the holder of such munus in a solidary way, receiving something like a “common or general mission” (such as that of the twelve), an ordination or vocation of solicitousness for the Universal Church, which is “particularized” with the missio circumscribed to a certain diocese. Let us see, in fact, the relevant sections of Lumen Gentium:

“[…] the Sacred Council teaches that bishops by divine institution have succeeded to the place of the apostles, as shepherds of the Church, and he who hears them, hears Christ, and he who rejects them, rejects Christ and Him who sent Christ.


[…] Episcopal consecration, together with the office of sanctifying, also confers the office of teaching and of governing, which, however, of its very nature, can be exercised only in hierarchical communion with the head and the members of the college. For from the tradition, which is expressed especially in liturgical rites and in the practice of both the Church of the East and of the West, it is clear that, by means of the imposition of hands and the words of consecration, the grace of the Holy Spirit is so conferred, and the sacred character so impressed, that bishops in an eminent and visible way sustain the roles of Christ Himself as Teacher, Shepherd and High Priest, and that they act in His person. Therefore it pertains to the bishops to admit newly elected members into the Episcopal body by means of the sacrament of Orders.

Just as in the Gospel, the Lord so disposing, St. Peter and the other apostles constitute one apostolic college, so in a similar way the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, and the bishops, the successors of the apostles, are joined together. […] One is constituted a member of the Episcopal body in virtue of sacramental consecration and hierarchical communion with the head and members of the body.

But the college or body of bishops has no authority unless it is understood together with the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter as its head. The pope’s power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. […]

[…] The Roman Pontiff, as the successor of Peter, is the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity of both the bishops and of the faithful. The individual bishops, however, are the visible principle and foundation of unity in their particular churches, fashioned after the model of the universal Church, in and from which churches comes into being the one and only Catholic Church. For this reason the individual bishops represent each his own church, but all of them together and with the Pope represent the entire Church in the bond of peace, love and unity.

The individual bishops, who are placed in charge of particular churches, exercise their pastoral government over the portion of the People of God committed to their care, and not over other churches nor over the universal Church. But each of them, as a member of the episcopal college and legitimate successor of the apostles, is obliged by Christ’s institution and command to be solicitous for the whole Church, and this solicitude, though it is not exercised by an act of jurisdiction, contributes greatly to the advantage of the universal Church. […]


Bishops, as successors of the apostles, receive from the Lord, to whom was given all power in heaven and on earth, the mission to teach all nations and to preach the Gospel to every creature, so that all men may attain to salvation by faith, baptism and the fulfilment of the commandments.

To fulfill this mission, Christ the Lord promised the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and on Pentecost day sent the Spirit from heaven, by whose power they would be witnesses to Him before the nations and peoples and kings even to the ends of the earth. And that duty, which the Lord committed to the shepherds of His people, is a true service, which in sacred literature is significantly called “diakonia” or ministry.

The canonical mission of bishops can come about by legitimate customs that have not been revoked by the supreme and universal authority of the Church, or by laws made or recognized be that the authority, or directly through the successor of Peter himself; and if the latter refuses or denies apostolic communion, such bishops cannot assume any office.


[…] Every legitimate celebration of the Eucharist is regulated by the bishop, to whom is committed the office of offering the worship of Christian religion to the Divine Majesty and of administering it in accordance with the Lord’s commandments and the Church’s laws, as further defined by his particular judgment for his diocese.


Bishops, as vicars and ambassadors of Christ, govern the particular churches entrusted to them by their counsel, exhortations, example, and even by their authority and sacred power […]. This power, which they personally exercise in Christ’s name, is proper, ordinary and immediate, although its exercise is ultimately regulated by the supreme authority of the Church, and can be circumscribed by certain limits, for the advantage of the Church or of the faithful. In virtue of this power, bishops have the sacred right and the duty before the Lord to make laws for their subjects, to pass judgment on them and to moderate everything pertaining to the ordering of worship and the apostolate.

The pastoral office or the habitual and daily care of their sheep is entrusted to them completely; nor are they to be regarded as vicars of the Roman Pontiffs, for they exercise an authority that is proper to them, and are quite correctly called “prelates,” heads of the people whom they govern. Their power, therefore, is not destroyed by the supreme and universal power, but on the contrary it is affirmed, strengthened and vindicated by it, since the Holy Spirit unfailingly preserves the form of government established by Christ the Lord in His Church.”


“2. A person becomes a member of the College by virtue of Episcopal consecration and by hierarchical communion with the head of the College and with its members. Cf. n. 22, end of 1 1.

In his consecration a person is given an ontological participation in the sacred functions [munera]; this is absolutely clear from Tradition, liturgical tradition included. The word “functions [munera]” is used deliberately instead of the word “powers [potestates],” because the latter word could be understood as a power that is fully ready to act. But for this power to be fully ready to act, there must be a further canonical or juridical determination through the hierarchical authority. This determination of power can consist in the granting of a particular office or in the allotment of subjects, and it is done according to the norms approved by the supreme authority. An additional norm of this sort is required by the very nature of the case, because it involves functions [munera] which must be exercised by many subjects cooperating in a hierarchical manner in accordance with Christ’s will. It is evident that this “communion” was applied in the Church’s life according to the circumstances of the time, before it was codified as law.

For this reason it is clearly stated that hierarchical communion with the head and members of the Church is required. Communion is a notion which is held in high honor in the ancient Church (and also today, especially in the East). However, it is not understood as some kind of vague disposition, but as an organic reality which requires a juridical form and is animated by charity. Hence the Commission, almost unanimously, decided that this wording should be used: “in hierarchical communion.” Cf. Modus 40 and the statements on canonical mission (n. 24).

The documents of recent Pontiffs regarding the jurisdiction of bishops must be interpreted in terms of this necessary determination of powers.


N.B. Without hierarchical communion the ontologico-sacramental function [munus], which is to be distinguished from the juridico-canonical aspect, cannot be exercised. However, the Commission has decided that it should not enter into question of liceity and validity. These questions are left to theologians to discuss—specifically the question of the power exercised de facto among the separated Eastern Churches, about which there are various explanations.[xvii]

Note that, according to the Preliminary Note of Explanation (2a.), the “ministries” conferred in the episcopal ordination ARE NOT a “power fully ready to act”, they DO NOT COINCIDE with the “power of jurisdiction”, because for this power to arise it is required the “canonical or juridical determination through the hierarchical authority”, through the provision of a certain office or the assignment of subjects, in accordance with the norms approved by the Pope. This means that the tria munera of the bishops have a mediate divine root and are given in the abstract with the consecration, while the qualification for their exercise (and this is how the “power of jurisdiction” is understood) has an immediate origin in the Pope and is conferred by the missio canonica.

For this reason, Lumen Gentium indicates that it is in this light of “determination of powers” or competences that one “must interpret the documents of the recent Supreme Pontiffs” (that is, Popes Pius XII and John XXIII)[xviii] on the papal origin of the bishops’ jurisdiction; that is, the Council itself marks an interpretive guideline of continuity between its documents and the preceding/concomitant pontifical magisterium. And, in addition, the Preliminary Note literally says that the “ontologico-sacramental [sic]… is to be distinguished from the juridico-canonical [sic] aspect.” Where, then, is the supposed annulment of the conceptual difference between power of order and power of jurisdiction, or the total absorption of the latter in the former?

In the great traditionalist myth, we answer.

But, in addition, such an annulment is also absent from Ratzinger’s theological thought. Let us see it:

Lumen Gentium “lists […] two roots of collegiality, even if they form an inseparable unity, by saying that one becomes a member of the college by the sacramental consecration and by the unity of communion with the head and with the members of the episcopal community.

This means:

  1. A sacramental root in the episcopal consecration itself, which does not only affect the individual as an individual, but is by its nature an insertion in a whole, in a unity of service, for which it is essential to overcome isolation and participate in a common mission. Just as the vocation of apostle represents the reception into the symbolism of the twelve, which forms an indispensable part of the apostolic mandate, so episcopal consecration is, by its essence, insertion into the community of episcopal service.

2. From this naturally follows the second condition of belonging to the episcopal college: effective communion with the head and with the other members of that college, which now does not appear as an external addition to the sacrament of orders, but as the essential development with which it reaches its full meaning. Let us also consider that this reciprocal communion, with which the essence of the episcopate is completed and is, therefore, a constitutive element to be with full right in the episcopal college, has as its point of reference not only the bishop of Rome, but also the ones who are bishops like him: the head and the other members of the college. It is never possible to maintain communion with the pope alone, but to have communion with him necessarily means to be “catholic”, meaning, to be equally in communion with all the other bishops who belong to the Catholic Church. In other words: If the second criterion of collegiality, which we have just discussed, requires as a condition of full collegiality, peace with the Bishop of Rome, precisely with this requirement it also includes the horizontal dimension of the Catholic, the reciprocal union of the bishops in general.

[…] It is clear and unequivocal that the episcopal college is not a mere creation of the pope, but springs from a sacramental fact and thus represents an indestructible prior datum of the ecclesiastical structure, which emerges from the very essence of the Church instituted by the Lord; even when the concrete exercise of collegiality needs more precise regulation by the positive law of the Church […]


[…] [T]hus the sacrament appears not as a simple gift to the individual, but rather, starting from its internal meaning, as an insertion in an “order;” that is to say, insertion in the community of those who together administer the services of the Church of God and who can only administer them together; jurisdiction, conversely, is there as the concrete development of what was placed in the sacrament, a development that, of course, must be juridically determined in its details through the positive designation of special domains of jurisdiction and through all the positive legislation of the Church in general.


If this sentence [of Lumen Gentium on the double root of the membership in the episcopal college] and, even more clearly, the precedent sentences of the paragraph on the sacramentality of episcopal consecration express the conviction that jurisdiction is not added merely from outside the episcopal office, but lies in the structure of the sacrament itself, then a difficulty seems to arise in the face of the actual situation of the episcopal office in the Latin Church, in which the distinction between ordo and iurisdictio was not born as an arbitrary affirmation, but as an interpretation of given facts. De facto, today (and from a very long time ago) consecration and jurisdiction are separated: There is the merely “titular” bishop, who is consecrated of course with a “title” to a given diocese, but who in fact cannot exercise jurisdiction. And the residential bishops effectively have their jurisdiction, because they are appointed by the pope for their diocese. Now, the question is not new. It was already at the center of the Tridentine discussions on the episcopate, for which the problem of episcopate and primacy was raised in this way, which at the same time inescapably included the urgent problem of the reform of the Church. The Tridentine Fathers were undoubtedly perfectly aware that episcopal jurisdiction cannot be reduced to a pure external appointment by the pope, if one did not want to reduce the episcopate itself to a simple papal institution; the function of government is linked in a too close and intimately necessary way with the episcopacy, to be completely separated from it. From this intuition a series of distinctions emerged in the discussion at that time, which we do not have to analyze in detail here. A distinction was made, for example, between iurisdictio and usus iurisdictionis, between an internal iurisdictio and another, more external jurisdiction, assigned by the pope.

The Nota praevia could in fact return to such views, but it describes them in other terms. It emphasizes that the consecration confers an ontological participation in the sacred powers, which, however, additionally needs the juridical determination to be able to proceed to the act, as would simply result from the need that many subjects of jurisdiction intervene. This determination is carried out in accordance with the norms approved by “the supreme authority”: the text leaves an open field for the various ways in which the insertion of the particular bishop in the entirety of the episcopal service was ensured in fact in history; with this, it at the same time implies that the common form since long ago in the Latin Church of the exclusive appointment by the pope is not the only possible way of juridically determining the scope of episcopal action. This also puts the declaration of the encyclical Mystici Corporis in the appropriate and broad theological and historical context; a declaration, according to which, the power of jurisdiction is conferred on the bishops immediately by the pope.

Such declarations, says the Nota, would refer to the level of juridical determination of episcopal power in the Church and would not, therefore, exclude a fundamental ontological participation in the pastoral office, a participation that is communicated by the sacrament itself.

[…] Starting from here, a new horizon of pastoral affirmations could open up: not only is the rigid opposition between ordo and iurisdictio necessarily dissolved, and the interior interpenetration of both is made clear, which gives them a totally different concept and plenitude; with this, a new and profound interpretation of the sacraments, of the prayerful attitude and of what is usually called “government” of the Church is opened in general terms.”[xix]

We see, then, that neither in Ratzinger is it a question of annulling the conceptual distinction between power of order and power of jurisdiction, nor of subsuming the latter in the former, but rather of qualifying such distinction based on a renewed emphasis on the necessary interconnections between both terms. Ratzinger does not disagree with the fact that the power of jurisdiction, understood as the determination of competences, comes immediately from the Pope, but emphasizes that it also has a mediate ontological-sacramental root that cannot be lost sight of.

Nor do we see, to tell the truth, such an “error” in the quotes from Mansini and Corecco that were supplied to us as additional “evidence.” Mansini points out that episcopal consecration is like “calls for jurisdiction,” that is, it merely confers a “basic power of ruling” and an “expectation” to acquire jurisdiction or administrative power over the particular Church in question, “making suitable” such an acquisition. How not to see in these words a conceptual distinction between what derives from the sacrament (basic power, expectation) and the jurisdiction itself, in the line of ontological qualification/potency vs. exercise enablement/actualization? As for the quote from E. Corecco, we find it frankly out of context and insufficient to carry out an adequate analysis.[xx]

In short, from what has been exposed so far we can conclude that the first “error” attributed to (post)conciliar ecclesiology is simply absent, both from Vatican II itself and from Ratzinger’s theological writings, and its formulation corresponds rather to an interpretive bias of certain reflections with a traditionalist tinge (cf. De Mattei, SSPX)[xxi].


[i] To which is added, obviously, the charism of infallibility for certain acts of the pontifical magisterium.

[ii] Actually it is Lumen Gentium.

[iii] Cf. interview of Dr. Edmund Mazza with Patrick Coffin: https://www.patrickcoffin.media/is-benedict-xvi-still-the-pope/.

[iv] At the same time that we are told about “the crises and problems” in the “conciliar Church” (interview of Dr. Edmund Mazza with John-Henry Westen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHSkC2j5lPY&t=3048s), we are told: “the documents of Vatican II are up for grabs, right? What is the proper interpretation of them?”  (https://www.patrickcoffin.media/is-benedict-xvi-still-the-pope/).

[v] Interview of Dr. Edmund Mazza with Timothy Flanders: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OeTnTN6h1yI&t=5044s.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] https://www.edmundmazza.com/2021/04/21/leave-the-throne-take-the-ministry-the-sacred-powers-of-pope-emeritus/ (the bold is ours). It is interesting to note that just prior to this De Mattei reference, Dr. Mazza goes to Msgr. Fredrik Hansen, as if there were full continuity between one and the other, when, according to Hansen’s quoted words, it was not the CVII documents themselves, nor the subsequent magisterial and disciplinary acts, but the theological current of Ratzinger et al., the source of the suppression of the difference between power of order and power of jurisdiction.

[viii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OeTnTN6h1yI&t=5044s. The bold is ours.

[ix] Ibid. The bold is in the original.

[x] And not only this, but also a rupture between the Catholic Church and what has come to be called the “conciliar Church.” One cannot see how such positions might be compatible with the dogma of the indefectibility of the Church.

[xi] Taken absurdity and obstinacy to the extreme, this myth even postulates that the “hermeneutics of continuity” is a manifestation of “Hegelianism.” No words…

[xii] RATZINGER, Joseph. El Nuevo Pueblo de Dios: Esquemas para una Eclesiología. Barcelona: Herder, 1972, pp. 100-102. (The bold is ours). Available on: https://portalconservador.com/livros/Joseph-Ratzinger-El-Nuevo-Pueblo-de-Dios.pdf.

[xiii] Ibid., pp. 243-245.

[xiv] Ibid., pp. 199-200. The bold and underlined are ours.

[xv] An affirmation that is not at all new, which in fact is expressly included in the Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus of the Vatican Council I: “This power of the Supreme Pontiff by no means detracts from that ordinary and immediate power of episcopal jurisdiction, by which bishops, who have succeeded to the place of the apostles by appointment of the Holy Spirit, tend and govern individually the particular flocks which have been assigned to them. On the contrary, this power of theirs is asserted, supported and defended by the Supreme and Universal Pastor; for St. Gregory the Great says: “My honor is the honor of the whole Church. My honor is the steadfast strength of my brethren. Then do I receive true honor, when it is denied to none of those to whom honor is due.” “. (The bold and underlined are ours). Cf. https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/teachings/vatican-is-dogmatic-constitution-pastor-aeternus-on-the-church-of-christ-243http://es.catholic.net/op/articulos/19352/constitucin-dogmtica-pastor-aeternus.html – modal.

[xvi] The provision of the episcopal office by pontifical appointment is a totally contingent situation, of merely ecclesiastical law, not of divine law. In this regard, Minakata briefly tells us that “the head of the community [the bishop] was provided until the fifth century, by a complex procedure, which involved all the components of the Church: the suffragium of the people, the testimonium of the clergy, the iudicium of the bishops of the neighboring churches and, finally, the consensus of the metropolitan or bishop of the mother-Church”47 47With time the election of the bishop would be restricted to the clergy of the city, then only to the cathedral chapter by scrutiny or compromise (cf. CONCILIUM LATERANENSE IV, const. 24, in COD, 246), advanced the second millennium, the Pope would replace those who had the power to provide the office”. MINAKATA URZÚA, Claudio. Naturaleza y efectos de la misión canónica en la organización eclesiástica. Trabajo de Grado, Doctorado en Derecho Canónico. Pamplona: Universidad de Navarra, 2015, p. 160. Available on: https://fdocuments.es/document/misin-cannica-en-la-organizacin-eclesistica-universidad-de-navarra-facultad.html?page=27.

[xvii] Lumen Gentium: n. 20-27 and Preliminary Note of Explanation, n. 2 and NB. https://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html. The emphasis is ours.

[xviii] Cf. Pius XII: Mystici Corporis Christi, Ad Sinarum Gentem, Ad Apostolorum Principis, Allocutio ad parochos urbis et concinatores sacri temporis quadragesimalis: De exponendis symboli apostolici veritatis, Allocutio ad Prelatos Auditores ceterosque Officiales et Administros Tribunalis S. R. Rotæ necnon eiusdem Tribunalis Advocatos et Procuratores. John XXIII: Allocutio in concistorium secretum habita.

[xix] RATZINGER, El nuevo…, Op. Cit., pp. 197-198, 200, 215-216, 245. The bold and underlined, and the texts inside square brackets, are ours.

[xx] And, in any case, if what the second theory of “substantial error” that we are examining seeks to demonstrate is an ecclesiological misconception on the part of Ratzinger, how decisive can the citation of other theologians be (regardless of whether they may belong to the same “school”)?

[xxi] And, furthermore, how could it be sustained, while the CVII documents are in force, that whoever defends their teachings (as Ratzinger does) is in a situation of “substantial error”? What would then be the appropriate reference for the assessment of the existing ecclesiological positions around a thorny issue, debated throughout the centuries, as it is precisely that of the relationship between power of order and power of jurisdiction?

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