Author Topic: Approaching Doubtful Sacraments and Canon Law and/or Catholic Moral Theology  (Read 2393 times)

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Offline mcollier

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I have seen it said that a Catholic must not approach doubtful sacraments on pain of mortal sin. 

At first, I thought this was based on Catholic moral theology on a position called tutiorism. But when I researched the term I read that tutiorism was condemned by the Holy See and that probabiliorism (or some variant of this position) is the predominant theological opinion/position. 

Then I read, that the prohibition against approaching doubtful sacraments is based on Canon Law itself. If so, what Canon? 

It all makes sense to me, but I would like to better understand this subject. 

Also, what constitutes doubt? In turn what constitutes certainty? Is it enough to have moral certainty to approach the sacraments? (And if so, I would like to better understand what constitutes moral certitude versus the other degrees of certitude that one can possess). 

Thank you. God bless. 

Offline mcollier

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Never mind. It looks like I found the answer. 

“We cannot choose a less certain option, called by the moral theologians a simply probable manner of acting, that could place in doubt the validity of the sacraments, as we are sometimes obliged to do in other moral questions. If we were able to follow a less certain way of acting, we would run the risk of grave sacrilege and uncertainty concerning the sacraments, which would place the eternal salvation of souls in great jeopardy. Even the lax “probabilist” theologians admitted this principle with respect to baptism and holy orders, since the contrary opinion was condemned by Pope Innocent XI in 1679. Innocent XI condemned the position that it is permissible
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in conferring sacraments to follow a probable opinion regarding the value of the sacrament, the safer opinion being abandoned.... Therefore, one should not make use of probable opinions only in conferring baptism, sacerdotal or episcopal orders." (Proposition 1 condemned and prohibited by Innocent XI, Dz. 1151)
 
Consequently, it is forbidden to accept a likely or probably valid ordination for the subsequent conferring of sacraments. One must have the greatest possible moral certitude, as in other things necessary for eternal salvation. The faithful themselves understand this principle, and it really is a part of the “sensus Ecclesiae,” the spirit of the Church. They do not want to share modernist, liberal rites, and have an aversion to receiving the sacraments from priests ordained in such rites, for they cannot tolerate a doubt in such matters. It is for this reason that they turn to the superiors to guarantee validity.”


Offline mcollier

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My original question never pertained to the Novus Ordo per se (I really was thinking of indult, FSSP, neoSSPX sacraments offered by priests with doubtful ordinations). But I also found this which I found helpful...other recent posts had raised similar issues...hopefully others find this helpful too. God bless. 

If intention is necessary for the validity of the sacraments, how can we ever be sure that the sacraments we receive are valid?
There can be no doubt as to the necessity of the correct intention for the valid reception of the sacraments. This is explicitly declared by the Catechism of the Council of Trent, when it states that the ministers of the Sacraments:
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...validly perform and confer the Sacraments, provided they make use of the matter and form always observed in the Catholic Church according to the institution of Christ, and provided they intend to do what the Church does in their administration (p. 155).
The Baltimore Catechism explains what the expression "intending to do what the Church does" really means, namely:
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the intention of doing what Christ intended when He instituted the Sacrament and what the Church intends when it administers the Sacrament.
As a consequence, it follows that if a priest has a positive intention against what the Church does, namely of specifically not intending what Christ intends and what the Church intends, then one of the three elements necessary for the validity of the Mass is absent, and the Mass is invalid.
This is effectively stated by Pope Alexander VIII when he condemned the contrary proposition as Jansenist, namely that baptism is valid when administered by a minister who resolves within his heart not to intend what the Church does (Dz, 1318).
Since none of us can read the innermost intentions of a minister’s heart how, then, does any one of us know whether or not the sacraments we have received were valid. In effect, Saint Robert Bellarmine points out that we can never have a certitude of Faith concerning the reception of a true sacrament, since no-one can see the intention of another. However, in truth we can never have such a certitude concerning human events. The greatest certitude that we can have is a moral certitude, which is also the certitude that we can have about any contingent, singular reality.
However, it is perfectly possible to have a moral certitude. In the traditional rites of the sacraments and of Mass the guarantee of this moral certitude is contained in the rites themselves. For the traditional rites for Mass and the sacraments express the intentions of the Church in a very explicit manner, leaving no room for doubt whatsoever. The same is not the case for the new rites, framed explicitly to be ambiguous, and to be just as compatible with a Protestant intention as with a Catholic one. Since they do not express the intention of doing what the Church does, the intention of the priest cannot be explicitly known. Consequently there is always a doubt as to the intention of the priest in the celebration of the New Mass and sacraments, which does not in any way exist in the traditional rite. The only way to have moral certitude of valid sacraments is to assist at the traditional rite of Mass. Although theoretically it would be possible for a priest to celebrate sacrilegiously in the traditional rite by having a positive counter intention, it is hardly likely, given that the correct intention is repeated several times, which is not the case in the new rite. To the contrary, it is very likely that a Novus Ordo priest celebrate invalidly through lack of intention, since the full and correct intention is not included in the texts of the New Mass.
Note that the Faith is not required for an adequate intention, and that heretics can confer the sacraments validly, provided that they have the intention of doing what the Church does, even though they might not know what that is. This was clear from the third century, when Pope St. Stephen I condemned St. Cyprian’s contention that the baptism of the heretical Novatians had to be repeated.  [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]”

Offline Pax Vobis

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Excellent research!  Most people incorrectly think that a positive doubt is a personal thing, ie person A has a doubt about the new mass but person B does not. That’s not what doubt has to do with at all!  They are viewing doubt as a personal, relativistic and subjective thing.  

The doubts exist because the theology is different.  The doubts are based on factual changes in the new rites.  The doubts exist whether they realize, or accept them or not...just like Truth exists whether people know of it or not.  Facts and truth exist outside of us, as part of reality, which most people ignore or are ignorant of.

Offline Your Friend Colin

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Excellent research!  Most people incorrectly think that a positive doubt is a personal thing, ie person A has a doubt about the new mass but person B does not. That’s not what doubt has to do with at all!  They are viewing doubt as a personal, relativistic and subjective thing.  

The doubts exist because the theology is different.  The doubts are based on factual changes in the new rites.  The doubts exist whether they realize, or accept them or not...just like Truth exists whether people know of it or not.  Facts and truth exist outside of us, as part of reality, which most people ignore or are ignorant of.
Is it reasonable to have doubts about my Baptism?
I was baptized by a Novus Ordo priest.


Offline Pax Vobis

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Baptism is so simple, it's hard to screw up.  Anyone can baptize you - atheist, protestant, heretic priest - as long as they say the correct words.  Don't worry about it.

Offline Stanley N

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Excellent research!  Most people incorrectly think that a positive doubt is a personal thing, ie person A has a doubt about the new mass but person B does not. That’s not what doubt has to do with at all!  They are viewing doubt as a personal, relativistic and subjective thing.  
It's not relativism that serious people have examined the case of the new mass and come to different conclusions. If we see any credibility in the opposing view, it is a recognition that the reality in this case is difficult to grasp.

On the other hand, if we give no credibility to the opposing view, then we are saying the opposing view is wrong and theologically incompetent.

Offline Pax Vobis

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It's not relativism that serious people have examined the case of the new mass and come to different conclusions. If we see any credibility in the opposing view, it is a recognition that the reality in this case is difficult to grasp.

On the other hand, if we give no credibility to the opposing view, then we are saying the opposing view is wrong and theologically incompetent.


Ok, then your problem is not relativism but ignorance of the facts.  The major doubts about the new mass were explained by the top theologians in rome - Cardinal Ottaviani, Bacci, and others.  They laid out in the "Ottaviani Intervention" why the new mass' validity can be "positively doubted", why it's theology is a "striking departure from the theology of Trent" and why the new mass is a protestantized service.  Obviously no one can say that this study is "theologically incompetant" since it was done at the request of Paul VI.  Now that you know this study exists, you should change your view immediately.
If you resist the facts above and ignore reality, then you can't claim ignorance on the issue but bad will.


Offline Stanley N

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Ok, then your problem is not relativism but ignorance of the facts. 
Are you making this personal?

Are you aware of all the facts?

Offline Pax Vobis

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If the top theologians in rome say the new mass can be positively doubtful, then what other facts are there to include?  I'll be happy to read, if you provide.

Offline Stanley N

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  • If the top theologians in rome say the new mass can be positively doubtful, then what other facts are there to include?  I'll be happy to read, if you provide.
    Well, you have already changed your terms: "can be doubtful" is not "is doubtful".
    "Can be" means it's case-by-case where grounds for positive doubt exist. 
    Does that not also imply there can be situations where there is no positive doubt?


    Offline Pax Vobis

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  • My speech is imperfect.  Mea culpa.  I am just the messenger.  Go read the Ottaviani report (see below link), which was produced by the top theologians in rome in the 60s.  You can also add a positive doubt to the new mass which did not exist in the 60s - the doubt over the new ordination rites and the episcopal consecrations.  However, even if a new mass was said with no doubts, even if we could say with 100% certainty that it is valid, this does not mean one can attend.  The validity of the mass is separate from its licitness and its morality.  The new mass is illegal and immoral, therefore sinful.

    It is illegal because it violates Quo Primum, which Pope Benedict said is still a valid law and this law does not allow any other missal to be used, except the 62 missal, under pain of sin to the pope.

    It is immoral because of many, many reasons - most notably because its theology is anti-Trent and protestantized, as +Ottaviani points out.  It is also immoral due to communion in the hand, irreverent dress of the laity and the atmosphere in general, which is an occasion of sin to one's Faith.

    http://www.catholictradition.org/Eucharist/ottaviani.htm





    Offline Markus

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  • How does the principle "Ecclesia suplex" fit into this debate?

    To me, it seems only natural that God would supply validity if a malicious person (e.g. a Freemason on a mission to destroy the Church's holy orders) were to intentionally refuse intention. 

    But that is just my thinking, as I have not researched this question. Would someone more knowledgeable care to comment?

    Offline Stanley N

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  • My speech is imperfect.  Mea culpa.  I am just the messenger.  Go read the Ottaviani report (see below link), which was produced by the top theologians in rome in the 60s.  You can also add a positive doubt to the new mass which did not exist in the 60s - the doubt over the new ordination rites and the episcopal consecrations.  However, even if a new mass was said with no doubts, even if we could say with 100% certainty that it is valid, this does not mean one can attend.
    A valid sacrament requires matter, form, priest and intention. The Ottaviani report did not say the form (the "rite") was doubtful. It said the rite was deficient and so opens the possibility that the minister might not form the proper intention. And this was in a footnote, as I recall.

    Intention is interior, however, and a doubt about something without any evidence is a negative doubt. To have a basis for positive doubt about the intention requires evidence in the external forum - the priest must make some external manifestation contrary to the Church.

    As I have said elsewhere, I think the current Roman Mass is disgraceful, and it appears a good share of Roman priests give heretical sermons to boot. To an Eastern Catholic, that is more than enough reason to avoid them.

    Offline Stanley N

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  • How does the principle "Ecclesia suplex" fit into this debate?

    To me, it seems only natural that God would supply validity if a malicious person (e.g. a Freemason on a mission to destroy the Church's holy orders) were to intentionally refuse intention.
    If a Catholic rite is performed correctly, Church discipline assumes a correct intention unless there is specific evidence to the contrary.

    Thus, if a bishop who is a mason ordains someone, by the fact the bishop did the rite correctly, the Church presumes the bishop/mason had the intention to do what the Church does in the rite. The ordination would be valid in law and practice unless the bishop/mason said or did something to the contrary, establishing doubt.


     

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