The studies on the Church which I began to write some years ago, and to which various reviews such as Vie Spirituelle, Revue Thomiste, Etudes Carmelitaines and others, especially Nova et vetera, have extended a welcome, were meant as sketches or fragments of a comprehensive work in which I hope to explain the Church, from the standpoint of speculative theology, in terms of the four causes from which she results—efficient, material, formal and final. This work is to be in four books.

This is the first of them. It treats of the immediate efficient cause producing the Church in the world, that is to say of the two powers, sacramental and jurisdictional, which by virtue of their union constitute the apostolic hierarchy. We shall consider, by way of corollary, the question of apostolicity.

A second book will study the nature of the Church as composed, in the image of Christ the Head and of men the members, of a spiritual element essentially invisible (the formal cause or soul of the Church) and of a material element essentially visible (the material cause or body of the Church). From the soul of the Church there derives her unity, and from the body of the Church her catholicity.

The third book will deal with the end of the Church, that is to say with God considered as her "separated" Common Good; and then of her interior order which is her immanent common good, and from which results her sanctity.

The fourth and last book will deal with the Church as she was in the days of her preparation before Christ came; and with what she will be in her consummation, in purgatory and in heaven. In this I shall emphasize simultaneously the continuity of her substantial being and the diversity of her accidental modes.

"If St. Thomas should come back to earth," wrote Pere Gardeil, "and could see the dogma of the Church at the point of development it has attained in our day, I do not doubt that he would give it generous space in the third part of his Summa Theologica, between the treatise on the Incarnation and the treatise on the sacraments."[1]

Works on the Church undertaken since St. Thomas' time have been chiefly directed—even the Summa de Ecclesia of Turrecremata is not altogether an exception—to defending the Church's authority, called in question since the end of the medieval period either by the civil power or by various forms of heresy. The result is that even today the questions discussed in treatises on the Church mainly concern either the hierarchy, that is to say the power of order and the power of jurisdiction, or the marks by which the true Church is to be recognized. These will be found for the most part in this first book.

This concentration upon apologetic has tended to exclude from treatises de Ecclesia all deeper study of the intimate constitution and essential mystery of the Church. It is precisely these, however, that most interest us today. We usually find them treated separately under the heading of the Mystical Body of Christ. Doubtless we could justify such a separation on grounds of convenience; but it would be a fatal thing if it led us to believe in the existence of two distinct theological treatises, one, on the Church, dealing with the hierarchical organization, the other, on the Mystical Body, with the inner life of the members of Christ. For that could mean our seeing a separation of the hierarchical organization and the organization of charity, of the Church and the Body of Christ. Pius XII warned us against any such error in his discourse to the seminarists of Rome on June 24th 1939: "It would be erroneous to distinguish between the juridical Church and the Church of charity. That is not how things are, rather this juridically established Church, having the Sovereign Pontiff for head, is also the Church of Christ, the Church of charity, and of the universal family of Christians."[2]

Any such error is impossible if we set out to explain the Church in terms of the four causes on which she essentially depends. The apostolic hierarchy will then represent no more than the immediate efficient cause of the Church, of the Mystical Body. Its proper effect is to give existence to the Church herself, "Christ diffused and communicated," along with her two constitutive causes, the soul that makes her wholly spiritual and the body that makes her wholly visible; and to set her on the way towards her final cause namely the divine sanctity, which it is her mission to reflect and communicate.

In this perspective the four marks, the four notes of the Church, naturally fall into place as corollaries of each of her four causes respectively.[3] They are seen as rooted in and growing out of the very essence of the Church, an exteriorization, a normal manifestation, of her mystery. After that we can leave it to apologetic to make the most of these marks in the concrete, to give them a more supple and detailed application as changing times and circumstances may demand.

An important question—various aspects of which we shall meet with later on—must be settled at the outset of this work. What meaning is to be attached, in speculative theology, to the word "Church"?

The word Church may be taken, and I shall in this book take it, in its formal, or ontological, or theological sense. So taken it indicates the Church in her entirety, body and soul together. But it indicates the Church alone, pure and unmixed, to the exclusion of all that is other than herself.

Looked at in this way, the Church is composed of just men and sinners. But that statement needs further precision. The Church contains sinners. But she does not contain sin. It is only in virtue of what remains pure and holy in them, that sinners belong to her—that is to say in virtue of the sacramental characters of Baptism and Confirmation, and of the theological habits of faith and hope if they still have them. That is the part of their being by which they still cleave to the Church, and are still within her. But in virtue of the mortal sin which has found its way into them and fills their hearts, they belong chiefly to the world and to the devil. "He who commits sin is of the devil" (1 John iii. 8).

Similarly we can say that the Church contains the just; but precisely in so far as they are just. To the extent to which, beside the profound choice of the will that unites them to God, they still harbour a region of shadows, a concession to venial sin, to that extent they are partially outside the Church.[4] Two categories of members alone are wholly within her—the newly baptized who have not yet sinned, and those souls that are consummated in sanctity, all absorbed by the light, like those of whom St. John of the Cross writes, in the last strophe of his Canticle, that henceforth they are no more troubled by the assaults of the devil or by the revolts of the passions. To them the words of the Apostle fully apply: "Whoever is born of God committeth not sin: for his seed abideth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil." (1 John iii. 9-10.)

Thus the frontier of the Church passes through each one of those who call themselves her members, enclosing within her bounds all that is pure and holy, leaving outside all that is sin and stain, "more piercing than any two-edged sword and reaching unto the division of the soul and the spirit, of the joints also and the marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart" (cf. Heb. iv. 12). So that even here below, in the days of her pilgrimage, in the midst of the evil and sin at war in each one of her children, the Church herself remains immaculate; and we can apply to her quite fully and without any restriction the passage of the Epistle to the Ephesians (V. 25-28): "Christ also loved the Church and delivered himself up for it: that he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life: that he might present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish."[5]

It is therefore always in this formal and theological sense that we take the word "Church" when we call her One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, the Bride and Body of Christ, the temple and dwelling-place of the Trinity. The sins of her members are not to be identified with the Church, or the imperfections of Christians with Christianity. It is not these that constitute her, or make her visible; but rather her true body, always illuminated by her soul—though the intensity of the illumination may vary from one age to another.

But the word "Church" can also be taken in a material manner. We may say, as before, that the Church is composed of just men and sinners. But in this sense the sinners are regarded as entirely within the Church, their sins included, and the Church herself is seen as a mingling of sanctity and sin. Evil has penetrated within her boundaries.

This material way of looking at the Church may arise from two very different preoccupations.

We meet with it on the one hand among the empiricists, notably the historians, who tend professionally to consider the Church from an exterior, descriptive and phenomenal standpoint. Seeing in her good men and bad men intermixed, they refer the actions of either indiscriminately to herself. They see her as responsible for all the good and all the evil which her members produce in time; she is at once the source, and the scene, of all the high achievements and all the unworthy lapses of Christians.

This material way of looking at the Church may be found on the other hand, and for almost opposite reasons, among preachers and the apostolically minded. They are not wanting in love, or in a sense of the mystery of the Church. But they are led to consider this mystery less under its ontological aspect, which appeals most to the speculative theologian, than under its dynamic, moral, and deontological aspect. Anxious to show Christians that de jure, in virtue of the law of their Baptism, they ought to live altogether in the light, altogether within the frontiers of the Church, they are inclined to assign her not her real frontiers, but the frontiers which she should have, and which indeed she has, as we said, in the newly baptized and in the saints. They cannot bear to envisage any limits to the Church within the soul of any single Christian; they want to push those limits back until they touch the extreme regions of the man, and end by encircling all the obediential powers of his soul. Thus they see the sins of Christians as within the very bosom of the Church, thereby strongly accentuating their almost sacrilegious character. Origen could say that lust and avarice had turned the Church, in certain places, into a den of thieves, and could make Christ Himself borrow the Psalmist's words to bewail her disorders: "Of what avail is my blood, since I descend into corruption?" St. Augustine could say that she limps, St. Catherine of Siena that she is leprous. These paradoxical modes of expression may, of course, derive from the famous words of the Apostle: "Know you not that your bodies are the members of Christ?. . Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of a harlot?. . . Or know you not that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you, whom you have from God; and you are not your own? For you are bought with a great price." (1 Cor. vi. 15, 19.) Taken formally and ontologically such expressions as those of Origen and Augustine and Catherine might seem to mean that "Christ sins and has always sinned in His members"—a proposition condemned by the twenty-second session of the Council of Basle.[6] It can be said that Christ lives, suffers, and sanctifies Himself in His members. It cannot be said that He sins in His members.

It is then from the formal and ontological standpoint that we shall consider the mystery of the Church. Steadily so to see her makes certain demands upon us. We must resist every tendency to materialize the Church, to confuse her real frontiers with those of the persons who belong to her, of the groups or parties in which they are enrolled. We must be always redrawing by faith her true and living frontiers within these persons, groups and parties, indeed within our own proper personality. And if it be true that nobody knows for certain whether he is worthy of love or of hatred, it is also true that no Christian knows for certain how the boundaries of the Church cut across his own being, whether they pass on this side or that of his heart's centre of gravity; none of us can do more than say with the Psalmist in fear and trembling: "Judica me Deus, et discerne causam meam. . . ab homine iniquo et doloso erue me." Of this Church—which comes from God by way of Christ and the hierarchy, which is visible, which includes sinners but not their sins—we shall have to say that she is at once purer and vaster than is commonly believed; purer, because she rejects all stain of sin, and vaster because she draws to herself everything that begins to spring up in the world from the seed of grace.

There is presumption in undertaking a comprehensive essay on the mystery of the Church, the mystery of the incomprehensible riches of Christ as they superabound in the heart of the world's misery. But the passage of time inescapably poses very grave questions to every contemporary mind; and no mere surface apologetic can cope with them. If we can bring into an organic whole the scattered insights that are offered us by the past, these questions can be answered at their true depth. If therefore anything be thought to be true in the pages that follow, let it be attributed to St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, whose faithful disciple I have tried to be. When one has such masters to follow, nothing is easier than to betray by a fidelity that goes no farther than the words, nothing is more difficult than to rediscover beneath familiar, almost banal formulae, the deep intuition that gave them birth. In these great Doctors I have found a theology of the Church more living, more far-reaching and more liberating than that which our manuals commonly contain. In them we feel the active presence of a vision of the mystery of the Church understood as an extension of the Incarnation. That vision we find in the Fathers, Latin as well as Greek; it is supported by the whole tenor of the New Testament. None of the heresies ever managed to see it in its entirety, but it was seen from the first and developed down the centuries with infinite delicacy, by the magisterium of this Roman Church which Thomas Aquinas revered so devoutly and to whose correction, when he came to die, he submitted all his writings. This same vision of faith continued to illumine the work of later theologians, and it is good indeed to experience the intimate communion which brings together on such high ground minds that are otherwise so diverse, even opposed: even when on problems not yet decided by the Church I have adopted another opinion than that maintained by some of them, the point at which I have had to abandon them serves but to show the length of the road we have traveled together. And up to a point one can say the same about certain thinkers who have remained outside the Church.

Inasmuch as they help us to share in the primordial intuitions of the faith, the texts of the past are never wearisome. They lead the mind into pastures that are always new, which we leave refreshed, not only towards the past, but also towards the problems and situations of today. There is only one way in which a tree can prove that it lives, and that is by sending out new shoots and new flowers every spring. Thus, to be always truly itself, the theology of the Church should be always abundant in new consequences. How should we ever have perceived them unless we had been guided by the writings of our contemporaries, whether theologians by vocation or otherwise?—and those that are not so are occasionally the more sensitive to vibrations coming from worlds that are still in formation.[7]

The reader will find many repetitions, because my aim has been, while treating of each particular truth concerning the Church, to make the weight of all the others felt. In this first book, the reader should find a sort of sketch foreshadowing all that is to be developed in the rest.

I am enough in love with speculative theology to give it the greater part of my time; but I am well aware that a higher wisdom exists, one which St. Thomas speaks of on the very threshold of his Summa, and which consists, he tells us, in "suffering" divine things. When I come to speak of the omnipresence of charity, I shall call attention to this experimental knowledge, in virtue of which an individual soul can wonderfully experience the universal mystery of the Church. It was almost exclusively in this way that St. Catherine of Siena knew the Church, and what she has to say of it is better calculated to kindle our hearts than all the writings of the theologians. That is why her name will be found at the head of this book. While writing it I have had in mind another and a greater than she, one in whom were recapitulated and summed up all the riches that the Church, taken as distinct from Christ, taken as the bride of Christ, could offer successively down the ages of faith: all the splendours, all the purity, all the heart-rending sorrow and compassion. I mean the Blessed Virgin Mary.

NOTE. For the English translation of the first volume of L'Eglise du Verbe incarne, two Excursus have been added: II: Some Recent Views on the Sacrament of Order: X: The Origins and Transmission of Political Power. Several of the notes have been revised in accordance with these additions, and I have had the opportunity in a considerable number of places of improving upon what I originally wrote.


The first act of the divine omnipotence is that by which it creates the universe from nothing, and maintains the substantial being of things by virtue of an unceasing immediate contact. "Now in each thing," says St. Thomas, "there is a proximate and immediate effect of God. For we proved. . . that God alone can create. Also, in each thing there is something caused by creation: in bodies, there is primary matter; in incorporeal beings there is their simple essence. . . Accordingly God must be present in all things at the same time: especially since those things He called into being from non—being, are continually preserved in being by Him. Wherefore it is said {Jeremias xxiii. 24}: I fill heaven and earth; and {Psalm cxxxviii. 8 (Vulg.) }: If I ascend into heaven, Thou art there: if I descend into hell, thou art present."[8]

The second act of the divine omnipotence is even more astonishing. It is that by which it seeks to invest and enrich human persons with gifts so wonderful and so pure that these persons can become, in union with each other and with God, a collective living abode in which God Himself will delight to dwell. When, in the Old Testament, Wisdom speaks, it is to say: "And in all these {peoples and nations} I sought rest, and I shall abide in the inheritance of the Lord" (Eccles. xxiv. 11 Sept.) Similarly, towards the end of the Apocalypse, the Church appears to St. John as "the holy city, the new Jerusalem"; and he hears a great voice coming from the throne and saying: "Behold, the tabernacle of God with men, and he will dwell with them. And they shall be his people: and God himself with them shall be their God" (xxi. 2—3).

Now what are we to say of this act by which God has produced the Church, His abode among men—whether we call the Church a miserable hovel on account of human sin, or a temple on account of the Guest it shelters? Has it known but a single form, unchanged down all the ages? Did God from the beginning produce His Church as it stands today, and has time no other part to play than to lend endurance to what was perfect from the start?

The answer is clear. The divine act that produced the Church has been marked by several phases. These might be called the various divine regimes under which the people of God have lived during the course of the ages, the divine regimes of the Church. For God led the Church through various successive states, and the purpose of time is to enable this Church not only to endure, but also to progress till it reaches that state which is to be the last one in this world, the state in which it enters the era of the Incarnation and of Pentecost.[9]

Let us briefly recall the succession of the divine regimes of the people of God and of the Church.

1. The Regime Prior To The Church

The Angelic Doctor teaches that God originally decided to act upon men directly, that is to say without any intermediary cause, to invest them with the grace of innocence and so to make of them the living abode in which He would come to dwell upon earth. In that respect the first regime of the people of God was profoundly different from those that followed the Fall and with which the Church properly so-called was to begin her course. Neither the mediation of Christ, nor that of any instrumental causes such as the sacramental or jurisdictional powers, was then in question at all.

It is clear in fact that the supernatural gifts of grace and truth with which the first man was to be endowed, could not pass by way of Christ, since the Word was not yet incarnate. We must go further. These supernatural gifts were not even given in view of the future sufferings of Christ, since, had man not sinned, God would not have had to redeem him by His sufferings; since indeed, as St. Thomas thought towards the end of his life, had man not sinned God would never have become incarnate.[10] Consequently, neither the grace conferred on the first man, nor that conferred on the angels, could, properly speaking, be the grace of Christ, gratia Christi. In connection with this point however, to which we shall return, there is a difference between the grace of the first man and the grace of the angels. While on the one hand the grace of innocence had to be lost in order to give place to that of redemption, to which it was ordered only indirectly and materially, the grace of the angels was ontologically pre-accorded (both intensively and extensively) to the perfect grace that was to fill the soul of Christ when the Word should eventually become incarnate. Consequently, when man's sin had shattered the harmony of innocence and the Word had resolved to become incarnate so as to die on the cross, the plenary grace created at that instant in His heart became the centre of reference, the locus, of all the graces that existed beforehand in the angels, just as the centre marked afterwards in an already existing circle becomes the locus of every point in the circumference.[11] We can go further along this road and add that as soon as the incarnation of the Word was accomplished, the angels began to receive, through the physical intermediation of the humanity of Christ, those graces which hitherto they had received immediately. Thus Christ is indeed the King of angels, now distributing to them the essential grace they have always possessed and the accidental graces superadded thereto.[12]

It is clear furthermore, according to the doctrine of St. Thomas, that had mankind continued in innocence the supernatural gifts of grace and truth would have reached them without passing through instrumental causes such as the sacramental or jurisdictional powers. The law of innocence meant in fact that spiritual life would flow from God to the soul and from the soul to the body: it would have been a breach of this law if grace and truth had come to the soul, which is spiritual, by way of sensible means or signs.[13]

Thus the divine omnipotence was the sole cause of the people of God in its first form. Doubtless the ministry of angels was already in operation to fortify men against the wiles of the devil [14] and to bring them the divine commands; [15] but the object of this mediation, which, in any case, was wholly spiritual, remained accidental. The essential gifts of grace and truth came immediately from God. Thus the divine government, prior to the coming of the Church, excluded all corporeal or visible intermediaries.

2. The First Regime Of The Church

Why did God allow the state of innocence to be destroyed? We know the answer: God permits evil only to make of it the occasion for a greater good.[16] To the regime of creation, which might appear perfect succeeds the regime of redemption which, on the whole, is to be better still. These two regimes differ profoundly. That of creation excluded every visible mediator; [17] that of redemption was to be essentially the regime of a Mediator, awaited, then recognized, "the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a redemption for all" (1 Tim. ii. 6). The first regime gave birth to the first form of the people of God. The regimes that followed were to give birth to the Church properly so-called, which was not to be a people of God pure and simple, but a people of God marked with the sign of the redemptive Incarnation, a people of God called the "Body" of Christ, a people whose vocation it would be to prolong in space and time His temporal life.

Immediately after the Fall the first of the regimes of the Church began. Grace and truth were now to be dispensed through a visible mediation.

The grace bestowed on souls from then onwards was that same grace which the Redeemer would one day merit by His love and pay for by His sufferings. In this sense it was already the grace of Christ, gratia Christi. And that is why it worked inwardly not only to begin the organization of the new people of God, but to lead this people gradually through the vicissitudes of their history towards the concrete and definitive status which it was to receive from Christ Himself.

To make it obscurely felt from the very outset that it came by anticipation from the mystery of the redemptive Incarnation, that is to say from the mystery of a God who made Himself visible and came down into our flesh, this grace was now given in dependence on visible signs, on outward actions, which theologians were to call sacraments. These sacraments were doubtless rudimentary. They were not yet, as they were to become under the New Law, the instrumental means and causes of grace; they were merely practical signs of it, serving to designate those on whom God in His mercy sent Hi s grace immediately, provided they were rightly disposed.[18] These sacraments existed already under the law of nature, but their number and importance was to be laid down in detail under the Law of Moses. As the history of the people of God unfolds, and the work of salvation progresses, we shall see the sacramental principle coming more and more to the fore.

An analogous course was followed in the preaching of divine truth. First of all the primitive revelation was transmitted exteriorly by the organ of a magisterium essentially fallible. God contented Himself with inwardly enlightening each particular soul by hidden inspirations. But under this regime the dangers besetting the work of salvation outweighed its advances. Then God raised up men whose mission was not merely to recall the content of the primitive revelation, but also to make it more explicit and more precise as time went on. These were the prophets. With them the principle of an exterior infallible teaching, first oral, then written, as a normal means of divine government, entered history for the first time.

Thus, in the measure in which the work of salvation proceeds, the importance of a visible mediation appears more and more clearly. Immediation is a sign of inferiority, mediation a sign of perfection and of progress. Why this law, at once so general and so mysterious? The answer is not far to seek. Visible mediation does not mean that God relaxes His care for the governing of men; it means on the contrary that His condescension begins to be more urgent, more helpful to a human nature wounded by sin. The moment it is introduced the immediate and direct solicitations of love, far from diminishing, become more abundant than ever. We may lay down the principle that for every outward promulgation of the law, there corresponds an inward inpouring of grace. These things are clear enough to anyone who understands that the regime of visible mediation is, from its very inception, a sort of adumbration and luminous shadow of the mystery of the Incarnation.

It remains true however that so long as this regime lasted, the visible mediation involved was still too imprecise to allow the act productive of the Church to bring with it the fullness of its effects of grace and truth:

1. Grace still came down directly from God to man. It did not pass through the humanity of Christ, so that it was not yet that rejoicing love which was to be concentrated first in the heart of the Word made flesh as the love with which the Father loved Christ, to overflow thence on all other men. Nor did it pass through the sacraments, which at this stage merely signified it but did not cause it: hence it still lacked the virtue and riches of those sacramental graces by which Christ was to establish His Church in its perfect state.

2. Moreover, supernatural truth, in the absence of a fully developed visible mediation, was neither completely revealed nor perfectly preserved.

Hence the first regime of the Church in its various realizations under the natural or the legal state, represents only a preparatory phase of the act productive of the Church.

3. The Existing Regime Of The Church

It was only when God, inaugurating the final era of history, chose to pour out at last upon men the supreme favours reserved for them from all eternity, that He established the Church in its definitive temporal status by bringing the regime of visible mediation to its highest point of perfection. This brought with it at once the deepest joy and the most effective help, but also the hardest trial and the most exacting exercise of our faith: the greatest joy and help, because there is nothing so connatural to man as to receive divine things humanly; [19] the hardest trial and effort, because there is no more surprising mystery than this collaboration of the uncreated with the created, of omnipotence with indigence, of eternity with time, of immensity with place.

First the Word is sent from heaven into our flesh, and then, having promised the help of the Spirit, He sends His own disciples into the world: "As the Father hath sent me, so also I send you" (John xx. 21). Hence the perfect regime of the Church militant involves a double visible mediation: that of the Incarnation and that of the hierarchy.

A. The Mediation Of The Incarnation

The first and principal mediation is that of the human nature of Christ which from the moment of the Incarnation became the organ of the Divinity, [20] the instrument by which the divine action [21] is to fill the world with the good things of grace. Henceforth, all gifts that come down to us from the abyss of the Deity first pass into the heart of Christ; it is of His fullness that all men—and even angels, as we have seen—receive. But how then can the human nature of Christ, which is finite and circumscribed by reason of the body, extend its influence over all men in the world, and even to the angels? Just as an instrument can produce, in virtue of the principal agent, an effect that surpasses its own powers and bears the stamp of the principal agent, so the created nature of Christ, by becoming the instrument of the divine immensity, can overleap its natural boundaries and receive a virtue beyond all limits.[22] And it is precisely because Christ is able to pour the rays of His charity upon all men without exception, because He can knock at the door of every soul, and play a part in the inner drama of each individual conscience, that God has made Him the absolutely universal instrument for the sanctification of the world to the exclusion of all others, so that, since His coming, no saving grace is ever given apart from Him. Hence it is that divine grace—now rightfully called the grace of Christ not only because it was merited by His charity and sufferings, but also because it passes through His heart before reaching us—brings with it new privileges.

For it delivers men for the first time from the penalty of original sin, opening the gates of heaven for them without further delay. That could not be said of the grace given by anticipation to the just men of the Old Law.[23]

Grace moreover, while of its own nature—it divinizes men, does this now by "christening" them, that is to say by working to conform their lives more and more to that of Christ. It is true that the human nature of Christ acts as an organ of the Divinity and that, in a general way, effects resemble their principal cause rather than the instrument; but the human nature of Christ, being henceforth united to the Person of the Word as a human hand is united to a human person, possesses all the fullness of the life that it pours out on other men. It became on this account a privileged instrument, speciale divinitatis instrumentum, [24] causing our salvation "as by its own proper virtue", [25] not by a virtue transmitted as a "separated" instrument does, and as a minister, even a sinful minister, can do. That is why it was that from the Incarnation onwards, more than in earlier times, grace tended to draw men to God by conforming them to Christ.[26]

B. The Mediation Of The Hierarchy

The second visible mediation, wholly subordinate to the first, is the mediation of the hierarchy.

1. The True Explanation

1. Christ, in the course of His temporal life, could, as physical instrument of the divine power, act in two different ways: either from a distance, or by sensible contact.

This can be seen in the case of the bodily cures. When the Jewish official begs Him to come down to Capharnaum where his son lies dying, Christ sends him back comforted, and straightway the child is healed (John iv. 46-54). When the centurion expressly asks that his servant may be healed by a single word spoken from afar, his prayer too is heard (Matt. viii. 5-13). When the Syrophaenician woman goes home she sees her child already freed from the devil (Mark vii. 29-30); and when the ten lepers are on the way to show themselves to the priests they find themselves suddenly cleansed (Luke xvii. 14). The cures however are, for the most part, wrought in a more direct way, by bodily contact. Our Lord touches a leper in Galilee (Mark i. 41); He spits on the eyes of a blind man at Bethsaida and lays hands on him twice (Mark viii. 23-25); He touches the eyes of two blind men at Capharnaum (Matt. ix. 29); and again at Jericho (Matt. xx. 34); He allows the woman with the issue of blood to touch the hem of His garment (Luke viii. 44); He takes Jairus' daughter by the hand (Luke viii. 54); He touches the bier on which a dead youth is carried (Luke vii. 14); He makes them take away the stone which separates Him from Lazarus (John xi. 39), and so on. Further, Jesus seems to go out of His way, at one time to insist on the value of this sensible contact (as when He puts His fingers into the ears of the deaf-mute to signify that He is going to open them, and moistens his tongue to signify that He will unloose it (Mark vii. 33)); at another, to make His virtue pass by poor and altogether disproportionate material means (as when He puts clay on the eyes of the blind man of Siloe (John ix. 6)); and again, to extend its range by the use of words (as when He commands the paralytic to rise (Mark ii. 11), or Lazarus to come forth (John xi. 43)). Why, finally, did He deliberately prolong an absence without which Lazarus need not have died (John xi. 21 and 32), if not to help us to realize the virtue of His bodily presence?

These bodily cures are, above all, the symbols of spiritual ones. As soon as Jesus appeared, His heart radiated grace to illumine the world from afar. It was from afar that He knew Nathanael under the fig-tree (John i. 48-50), and His glance travels yet farther to all the true adorers in spirit and in truth (John iv. 23), and all the sheep not yet in the fold of Israel (John x. 16). But He acted in a still more marvellous manner on those who approached Him; He slaked their thirst: "If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink" (John vii. 37); He comforted them: "Come to me all ye that labour and are burdened, and I will refresh you" (Matt. xi. 28); He absolved them:". . . but she with ointment hath anointed my feet. Wherefore I say to thee: Many sins are forgiven her, because she hath loved much" (Luke vii. 46-47); He touched their hearts with penitence: "And the Lord, turning, looked on Peter. And Peter remembered. . . and going out wept bitterly" (Luke xxii. 61); He put new heart into them: "Was not our heart burning within us, whilst he spoke in the way?" (Luke xxiv. 32); He met their love with love: "Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples whom Jesus loved" (John xiii. 23). Here too we shall see Him use the spoken word to enlarge the field of this sanctifying contact. A word casts out the unclean spirit in the synagogue of Capharnaum (Mark i. 25), and among the Gerasenes (Mark v. 8), and takes away the sins of the paralytic (Mark ii. 5), and cleanses the adulteress (John viii. 11).

It thus appears that in the days of His mortal life Jesus acted in two ways: He scattered His graces far and wide, and that is action from a distance; and He communicated them in a more intimate manner to those whom He could touch, and that is action by contact. Certainly such contact is no indispensable means to His action; but it is His connatural means, the means to which He draws our attention, and for which He takes care to provide all possible opportunity by moving about through Galilee, Samaria, Judea, Decapolis and even to Phoenicia. And if we want the ultimate reason for this procedure we must seek it not merely in the principle (still too general) that direct contact between agent and patient favours the full efficiency of physical action (for when it comes from God through the heart of Christ, physical action can be perfect even at a distance), but above all in the fact, much more immediate, that inasmuch as our nature is wounded, it stands in need of a sensible stimulus to awaken it connaturally to the life of grace.[27] And that explains why the perfection of heaven, where man will be glorified, will not be incompatible with Christ's action from a distance; whereas the perfection of earth, where man remains wounded, requires the action of Christ by sensible contact.[28]

2. Jesus has now been "taken up into heaven", He "sits on the right hand of God" (Mark xvi. 19), and is fully associated with His Father's power. Is His action to be restricted, from now onwards, to action from a distance? Is this the end of His action by contact? No: for before He left us He willed that there should always be among us certain men invested with divine powers, by whom the action that He initiates from heaven may be sensibly conveyed to each of us and may continue to reach us in the only way connatural to us—through direct contact. These are the hierarchic powers. Far from being substituted for Christ's action they are subordinated to it so as to carry it, in some sort, through space and time: like those mists left behind by the rain which continue to refresh the earth when the rain has ceased, they come to birth from the mystery of the Incarnation to perpetuate its blessings among us.[29] These powers are essentially ministerial, that is to say, transmitters; they would be without effect if the divine power, passing into the heart of Christ, did not perpetually come to touch them into life. They comprise two kinds of powers: the jurisdictional power, transmitting truth, and the sacramental power, transmitting grace.[30] Our Lord Himself announced, prepared and instituted them while He was still visible in our midst: He first sent the twelve Apostles into Galilee (Luke ix. 1), then the seventy-two disciples into Judea (Luke x. I), and finally the "Eleven" with a mission to teach all nations until the consummation of the world (Matt. xxviii. 16-20). He baptized, or had baptized, all who came to Him (John iii. 22; iv. 2) [31] and He willed that after His ascension all nations should be baptized (Matt. xxviii. 16-20). And we have a sign, at once mysterious and manifest, that in these hierarchic powers He seeks to establish sensible contact with us. It appears in this, that the end of the highest of these powers, the power of order, is to give us His very presence itself, real and corporeal, under the sacramental veils.

Doubtless God could have saved us without becoming incarnate. Probably even in that case He would have established a visible hierarchy—an opinion that finds support in reasons of a general order, such as the fact that providence habitually rules lower things through higher. Such general reasons cannot content us when others, more precise and immediate, are at hand. We know that it was the desire to come into immediate touch with us that led God to become incarnate. And we know that Christ, after a short time in this world, was taken up into heaven where He sits at the right hand of the Father. How then can sensible contact between Him and ourselves be maintained? There is only one solution: namely that Christ, when about to leave the earth, founded here a visible hierarchy, assisted by Himself, directed by Himself, a hierarchy which, living in our midst, could serve as His instrument in establishing contact with us. He continues then to make contact with us by His action, but under the appearances of the hierarchy; as, in the greatest of the sacraments, He continues to make contact with us by His substance under the appearances of bread and wine. Such is the direct and immediate explanation of the institution of the Christian hierarchy.

2. False Explanations

To those who seek an explanation of the origin of the hierarchy but fail to rise to this level, it can hardly appear to be more than the product of a process of human self-divinization. We may here recall Chestov's reflections on what he calls the "power of the keys". In this he sees a hand uplifted against the transcendence of God, a progressive attempt at a hellenization of the biblical revelation. For Chestov, Socrates was the first who clearly enunciated the formidable idea that the keys of heaven are on earth, at the disposal of men. The Christians tore this power from the hands of the idolators, and to-day it is the scientific spirit that makes bold to grasp it. "Scratch a modern European, and whether he be positivist or materialist you soon discover under his skin the old medieval Catholic, convinced of his exclusive right to open the gates of heaven. . . If God Himself came to tell us that the potestas clavium belonged to Him alone the mildest of us would revolt."[32] We may find a very similar idea on the significance of our ecclesiastical hierarchy in Karl Barth.

At the bottom of the outlook of these thinkers there lies a fatal misconception of the relations between God and man. They suppose that if God conferred some of His powers on man He would have to resign these powers Himself; that what man possesses ministerially as instrumental cause, God must cease to possess sovereignly as First Cause; that there is, in a word, a concurrence or conflict between the potestas of the Creator and the potestas of His creatures, so that something given to them is something taken from Him. In such an hypothesis, it is evident that the salvific powers—but also all powers in general, even down to the act of existence itself—cannot belong both to God and to man; we must choose whether we shall attribute them to God or to man.

Those who reason thus are the victims of an univocal metaphysic. We do not attribute one and the same power of the keys both to God and to His ministers. The notion of the power of the keys is proportional, analogical. There are the keys of authority (clavis auctoritatis) which are the prerogative of the Holy Trinity; the keys of excellence (clavis excellentiae) which are proper to Christ, in that His human nature is the organ of the Divinity; and finally the keys of the ministry (clavis ministerii) [33] which alone are communicated to the Church and subsist in dependence on the two foregoing as if suspended from them. The first keys contain the second, and the second the third, as the ocean contains all its currents. It is a metaphysical error which falsifies in advance all attempts at exegesis, to imagine that the divine power cannot communicate itself to men by contact without losing something of itself in the process, that it ceases to be sovereign master of the goods it bestows. That the hierarchic powers, along with the created subjects in which they reside remain in uninterrupted dependence on the divine power, is asserted by the author of the Imitation of Christ. Expressing the common doctrine on the most sublime and mysterious of these powers, that of consecrating the Body and Blood of the Saviour, he writes: "The priest is God's minister, using God's word, by God's own command and institution; but it is God who is here the principal Author and invisible Operator, to whom is subject all that He wills, and who is obeyed in all that He commands."[34]

3. The Characteristics Of The Hierarchic Action

The virtue coming from God through contact with a visible hierarchy—which therefore might be called "hierarchic virtue" or, again, "apostolic virtue "—will have for its proper effect the formation of the Church. It will bear the marks of its double origin, divine and visible. And that is why it will possess characteristics apparently opposed; for instance, it will be perfect, but yet will call for completion; it will be universal, but yet in need of something to supply for it.

It is perfect because it alone confers those sanctifying effects which are to bring the Church militant to her perfect historical age, to her ultimate specific form, which are to make her the completed Body of Christ, the community having Christ for Head and Christians for members, the marvellous abode in which God dwells somewhat as He dwells in Christ Himself. And yet it has need of completing graces over and above itself to prepare souls for it in the first place, and to perpetuate its effects. How, to start with, would the action of the hierarchy be welcomed by adults if they were not interiorly prepared by hidden influences coming from Christ without mediation to predispose them towards it, and continuing to stir them up afterwards to new progress?[35] And since the hierarchy can only operate by individual acts, from time to time, in a way that is morally continuous of course, but yet physically discontinuous, how could its divine effects in souls—such as the sacramental character and sacramental grace, which nothing else could supply—be kept continuously in existence save by a continuous and secret influx? Certain gifts of plenitude, necessary for the constitution of the Church, could never be given to man without the contact of the hierarchy; but to ensure the acceptance of these gifts and their continuous persistence in time, requires the action of a power of completion, also coming from Christ, but without mediation and wholly invisibly.

Furthermore, the hierarchic virtue is universal, since it is to extend to all nations and to endure for all time: "Going therefore teach ye all nations: baptizing them. . . and behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world" (Matt. xxviii. 19-20). But the hierarchy reaches men through sensible contact. Can such a contact be really universal? Undoubtedly it can. First of all de jure, because the hierarchy is the unique visible instrument chosen by God to form His Church here below and communicate the fullness of grace and evangelical truth to the world; and de facto as well, for on the day of Pentecost the hierarchy established contact with a multitude of men of all conditions, classes and tongues. Yet this factual universality of the hierarchy will be never fully achieved. Conditions for preaching the Gospel can always become more favourable; there can always be a greater readiness to receive it, more active zeal to spread it abroad. To suppose that the universality of the hierarchy will one day reach its theoretical maximum, is to suppose it to make contact not only with each of the great categories of mankind, but also with each subordinate group contained in those categories. That, in fact, is the utmost perfection of universality which we have any right to expect of a visible and social instrument of salvation. Even supposing it achieved, the hierarchy would not necessarily have made contact with each individual of each group; any individual might still be in invincible (non-culpable) ignorance of its divine character. Now we know on the other hand that God "will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. ii. 4), and that no human person, no man endowed with reason and freedom, will ever be abandoned by Him; even though, by no fault of his own, he wholly misses or misconceives the hierarchy. Such a man, living beyond its reach, will at least be visited as from afar by hidden redemptive influences, and only one who knowingly rejects these express invitations will be definitively condemned. We have said: only the outpouring of grace that comes of visible contact with the hierarchy will enable the Church to attain to its final specific state and grow to the fullness of the Body of Christ in this world. But this outpouring, though plenary and universal in its order, calls for another, altogether spiritual and effected from a distance; an outpouring whose normal purpose it will be to complete the former, but whose extraordinary purpose it will also be in a certain measure to supply for it.

Consequently, two influences from Christ are to be recognized. The first is exerted through contact with the hierarchy. It is perfect. It is universal both de jure and de facto, but still in a particular genus, in that way namely in which a hierarchy, a visible and social instrument of salvation, can be said to be universal, i. e. by reaching every class of men, not necessarily each man in each class, genera singulorum, non singula generum; [36] let us call it if you will, "collective universality". The second influence, action from a distance, is universal with the universality possible to a pure ray of the spirit: it enters freely into each human conscience, normally as completing, i. e. as disposing it to receive the hierarchical impulse and retain its effects; but exceptionally, when this latter is lacking, as supplying for it, and filling up in a measure what it lacks. This we may call "individual universality".

4. Action From A Distance As Supplementary

The divine power of Christ makes use exclusively of the contact of the J hierarchy to constitute the Church in her last historical epoch, to give men the sacramental characters, the sacramental graces, and the right orientation of their thought and action. And yet the divine power of Christ is not confined to the use of visible instruments.[37] It can dispense with them. It sends into each human conscience from afar, if not the same gifts, at least the elementary grace of salvation. Of this action from a distance, in so far as it is called upon exceptionally to supply for action by contact, I must here say a few words.

It will always be granted till the consummation of the world. For in this world there will always be men who, by no fault of their own, will live in ignorance or misconception of the hierarchy. They will not receive the graces that make them full members of the Church; yet none of them will be deprived, save by his own fault, of the grace of salvation.

If they refuse this grace, they condemn themselves. If they are docile to it to the point of living in love, they are Christ's sheep. They are not yet visibly united to the flock that Peter has to feed. They are sheep still scattered, souls still in exile.

But the grace that comes to their souls is, in itself, a grace bearing them towards the Church. It orientates all men secretly towards the one flock of Christ.[38] It does not always succeed in bringing them in effectively. Many, by no fault of their own, may die without reaching the end of their journey. They are not yet, but nevertheless they can be, of the Church. They are not yet of her in any stable or definitive way, but they can be so in a precarious and provisional way; they are not yet wholly members in achieved act, re, but they can be so incompletely, in virtual act, voto; they are not yet qualified to receive the efficient causal influence of the hierarchic powers, but they can be already en route—perhaps without knowing it, perhaps superficially against the grain—towards regions illuminated and fecundated by the hierarchical powers. So that in a sense there is really only one flock upon earth already, gathered together by Christ and for Christ, and entrusted by Christ to Peter—a flock to which many faithful belong consciously, openly, visibly, and many other faithful unconsciously, secretly and invisibly.

4. The Future Regime Of The Church

The visible mission of the Word, on the day of the Incarnation, gave the Church Christ for Head; the visible mission of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost gave her the faithful for body; with these missions, the Church entered on her definitive economy. What was inaugurated at that time—which the Apostles insistently called "the last days" (Heb. i. 2) and "the last times" (1 Peter i. 20)—was destined to endure for eternity. For indeed all the riches that God had reserved for us in His heart since the beginning of the world were then really given us. In this world we possess them only under veils and in a nature still gravely injured by sin. But later, when all veils are torn away, we shall possess them fully and openly, in a nature glorified and transfigured. Thus, even in the definitive economy of the Church, we have to distinguish two successive regimes: the regime of earth and the regime of heaven.

The beatifying vision and love of the angels and of the elect plunge them directly and immediately into the very Godhead Itself. The strength by which they know God as He knows Himself and love Him as He loves Himself still comes to them mediately, by way of the human nature of Christ, the eternal King of men and angels; but in heaven, with all our weaknesses healed, [39] the difference between action by contact and action from a distance is of no great importance. The one will penetrate us with the same ease and the same connaturality as the other.

The visible hierarchy will not then be needed any more. Its whole purpose was to continue that sensible contact by which Christ touched our wounds to heal them. That is why the Fathers and Doctors of the Church were so fond of presenting the mediation of the hierarchy in the light of a remedy. It had no raison d'etre in the state of original justice.[40] It will have less still in the state of glorified nature: "When the consummation is come the use of sacraments will cease; for the blessed in celestial glory have no longer any need of the sacramental remedy. They endlessly rejoice in the presence of God, contemplating His glory face to face and, transformed from brightness to brightness in the abyss of Deity, they taste the Word of God made flesh as He was in the beginning and will be for ever."[41]



From the beginning of the Christian revelation to the present day the Church appears as suspended from God by the visible chain of a hierarchy. This is a mystery that at once raises certain questions.

1. The Chain Of Apostolicity

"As the Father hath sent me I also send you. . ." (John xx. 21). "Whatsoever you shall bind upon earth shall be bound also in heaven. . ." (Matt. xviii. 18). "All power is given me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore teach ye all nations, baptizing them. . . teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world" (Matt. xxviii. 18-20).

The Father, Christ, the apostolic body composed of Peter and the other Apostles, the people—these are the links of a chain proclaimed by the whole Gospel.[42] An impulse of extraordinary power began, at the opening of our era, to work for the salvation of men; it comes down to them by steps, passing first into Christ (now hidden from us by the luminous cloud of the Ascension), then from Christ into the apostolic body [43] which is to endure till the end of the world, to teach and baptize all peoples. This extraordinary energy issuing from God, made manifest in Christ, continues operative in the apostolic body (for though its members, as individuals, are constantly replaced, it subsists like a unique living thing from generation to generation). It may be called the virtue of apostolicity, and is the proper cause of the Church, as fire is the proper cause of heat. It is always in act, forming in this world what St. Paul calls the Body of Christ. The Church, in the proper sense of that word, can come to birth and flourish only where the Blessed Trinity, through Our Lord and through the apostolic body, touches our earth; that, presumably, is what we mean when we call her apostolic.[44] The religion of the Gospel in not egalitarian but apostolic; it is not a religion without intermediaries, but hierarchic.

2. Why A Hierarchy?

Here certainly is a great mystery. God could be the sole Actor if He wished. He was under no necessity to mingle human nature, always circumscribed, almost always sinful, with the work of the sanctification of the world. He fully foresaw that in having recourse to the ministry of men He would be only too often ill-served, and would provide some with arguments against His goodness. "What !" said Rousseau. "Always these human witnesses, always men who report what other men have reported, always men between God and myself!"[45] And indeed it is true that between God and myself I encounter human nature at every turn, first that of Christ sent by the Father, and then that of the Apostles and their successors sent by Christ.[46] Why?

1. The first answer derives from a general principle which would apply, proportionately, to every form of divine government, whether of the world of nature or the world of grace. Though the very least beings in the universe are directly present to Him, God has chosen nevertheless to rule them by a chain of created intermediaries; below the First Cause there are genuine secondary causes. God has chosen to endow creatures not only with being and the perfection by which they exist, but also with causative virtue and the perfection by which they act.[47] Thus lower things are ruled by higher and these again by higher still. Order is always born of subordination. On the plane of nature children depend on parents, families depend on political governments, whose form is doubtless optional but whose existence is indispensable. This same general principle holds on the plane of grace: "For all things are yours, whether it be Paul, or Apollo or Cephas, [48] or the world, or life, or death, or things present or things to come; for all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's" (1 Cor. iii. 21-23).

From this standpoint one of the highest ends of the hierarchy is to provoke the exercise of charity. This is the truth that God showed St. Catherine of Siena: "I could easily have created men possessed of all that they should need both for body and soul, but I chose that they should have need of each other, and should be my ministers to administer the graces and gifts that they have received from me. Whether a man will or no he cannot help making an act of love. It is true however that that act, unless made through love of me, profits him nothing as far as grace is concerned. See then that I have made men my ministers, and placed them in diverse stations and various ranks, in order that they may make use of the virtue of love. Wherefore, I show you that in my house are many mansions, and that I wish for no other thing than love."[49] There is light enough in those few lines of the dyer's daughter to dissipate all the paradoxes of the Savoyard Vicar

2. So much for the general principle of hierarchy in relation to all created things. For the Church we can, as we have seen, explain the need for a hierarchy in a more precise and immediate way. God became incarnate and entered into sense contact with men; but Christ, after some years on earth, ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven; how was that sensible contact, effected of old between Him and ourselves, to continue? Christ about to quit the world, left behind Him a visible hierarchy which thenceforth He was to use as an instrument for establishing contact with us.

3. The Work Of The Disciples More Wonderful, In A Way, Than That Of Jesus

It is easy to see that Jesus' most pressing care, after founding the Kingdom of God, was not to set about expanding it Himself, but to form those who would work for its expansion. As death approached He set His face towards Jerusalem and seemed little by little to concentrate His attention first on the Apostles, then on three of them, and then on the foremost of these three.

It was to be their task in return, when they were confirmed, to be His witnesses "in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts i. 8). The book of the Acts is the history of this conquest of the world by the Apostles under the action of the Holy Spirit. Though the Magi came to His cradle, Jesus was later to declare that He Himself was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. xv. 24); so that it was for Peter, after the vision at Joppa, to open the gates of the Church to the Gentiles (Acts x), and for Paul to make them aware of the mystery of their aggregation to Christ (Eph. iii. 6). Thus the Apostles were to do greater things externally than Jesus; but they did them in virtue of His continuing assistance. "He that believeth in me, the works that I do he also shall do, and greater than these shall he do: because I go to the Father" (John xiv. 12). Never perhaps has the role of the intermediaries in the religion of Jesus been more highly exalted than in this text.[50] It was to be through them that Jesus would conquer the world: "I have sent you to reap that in which you did not labour: others have laboured, and you have entered into their labours" (John iv. 38).

4. Responsibilities Of The Hierarchy

"I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do" (John xvii. 4). What priest on his death-bed, calling to memory these words of Jesus to His Father for the last time, would dare to repeat them without feeling judged by them and indeed without feeling shaken to the depths of his soul by the vision of the evil occasioned by the negligences and errors of his life?

He knows, to be sure, that God, by secret and unlooked-for illuminations, offers every soul His love, and that none of the lost will complain at the day of judgment that their fate is no fault of their own. But he knows also that if he had imitated the Cure of Ars, even very inadequately, a flood of grace would have been poured out over souls on his account and would have sanctified them by thousands. The thought could become so oppressive that only a special mercy would save him from despair.

And, given that the body of the faithful as a whole, in so far as it puts the gifts it has received into act, is the cause of the life and radiance of the Church, every Catholic conscious of the mission which has lain upon him since Baptism and Confirmation, might well feel the like anguish. St. Catherine of Siena, lamb without spot, broken by unheard-of penances, accused herself with tears, while she lay dying, of all the disorders which then disfigured Christendom.

And with reason; for it is natural that the faith, which involves acceptance of Christ's words on the mediation of weak men and thus lays unlimited responsibilities upon us, should thereby also give us a glimpse of the incalculable and disquieting consequences of a single one of our shortcomings.

5. The Hierarchy As Mystery And As Miracle

When the divine virtue passed through the human nature of Christ to bring grace and truth to the sinners among whom He lived, then, although it remained essentially mysterious, it embodied itself in space and time, and became in a measure manifest, on account of the visible means it borrowed. Thus too, the same mysterious virtue by which today the Church is formed in the world, having come from its source in the Trinity and passed through the human nature of Our Lord now glorified and ascended to heaven, continues, by passing through the hierarchy, to incarnate itself in space and time and to make itself in a measure visible, by reason of the means whereby it enters into sensible contact with us. It is thus invisible and mysterious in its inner depths, but visible and evident up to a point in virtue of the sensible vesture with which it clothes itself in order to reach us

We need no faith to perceive the sacramental signs and the jurisdictional organization of the Church. Faith will be needed, however, to recognize that these signs and this organization are the envelope of a hidden, divine and ever-active virtue, without which the very being and existence of the Church would soon founder into nothingness. That is the mystery we confess when we say, in the words of the Nicaeo-Constantinopolitan Creed: "I believe in the apostolic Church." We believe—it is a truth of faith revealed in Scripture—that a supernatural virtue penetrates the hierarchy, the apostolic body, for the forming of the Body of Christ in the world.

Yet, however mysterious in itself, the divine virtue that forms and maintains the Church is revealed, inadequately no doubt, in one of its effects: the marvellous permanence of the Church. To anyone who is alive to the impermanence and fragility of all known societies, the uninterrupted substantial continuity of the Church, in the midst of the revolutions of the Western world, must surely seem a sociological fact for which no natural explanation will suffice. The permanence of the Church under one same hierarchy is not a mystery to be seen only by the eye of faith; it is a fact verifiable in history; and its miraculous character bears witness to the divine origin of the Church. In this sense Bossuet could write: "Besides the advantage which the Church of Jesus Christ alone possesses in being founded on miraculous and divine facts openly proclaimed without fear of contradiction at the very time when they happened, here, for those who live in later times, we have a permanent miracle confirming the truth of all the others: the persistence of a religion consistently victorious over all the errors that attempt to destroy it."[51]

The hierarchy is mysterious and, as such, an object of faith, in so far as it is a dispenser of divine grace and truth, and in so far as it is the instrumental cause of the Body of Christ which is the Church. But it is also miraculous, and, as such, observable, inasmuch as in the turmoil and confusion of the world it communicates a constancy, a persistence, to all that we can see of the Church—a constancy of doctrine and of practice which the laws that preside over the evolution of human societies cannot sufficiently explain.



The apostolic hierarchy divides into two great powers, the power of order and the power of jurisdiction. We must examine the basis of this division, and the nature of both powers.

1. The Basis Of The Division Of The Two Hierarchic Powers

Christ is "the head of the body, the Church" (Col. i. 18). God has made Him "head over all the Church, which is his body" (Eph. i. 22-23). "Christ is the head of the Church, the Saviour of his body" (Eph. v. 23). In this comparison of head and body St. Paul indicates the whole mystery of the action of Christ on His Church.

The Word takes flesh and becomes the Head of the Church. He acts on her in two ways. First, by a hidden influx from within, He communicates the life of grace. And again He teaches her, from without, by words that reach the mind through the ear, the ways of truth. Thus, by a two-fold contact, the one, more mysterious, pouring out grace, the other, more external, showing her the truth, Christ saves the Church which is His Body. That is why He appeared to the Apostles "full of grace and truth" (John i. 14); Moses had brought only the Law, but "by Jesus Christ", by contact with Him, "came grace and truth" (John i. 17). He is Priest, full of grace, and King, full of truth.

Now the Lord Jesus, says St. Mark (xvi. 19), "was taken up into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God"; He is, says St. Matthew (xxvi. 64), "sitting on the right hand of the power of God"; Stephen saw Him "standing on the right hand of God" (Acts vii. 55). He is thus associated with the divine omnipotence in the work of directing and sustaining His Church. How then does He sustain, and how direct her?

He willed to form her by the double contact of His sanctifying influx and His living teaching. Does it then follow that in order to conserve her He will act on her only from a distance? He willed first to be united to her as head to body: must we believe that on the day of the Ascension the Head was, as it were, taken from the Body?

No. The glorified Christ who is in heaven remains closely united to the crucified body of His Church. He touches it, no longer through the contact of His own proper Person, save in the Eucharist, but through the persons of the hierarchy who have given themselves to be used by Him: for by this, explains the Apostle, we cleave to "the head, from which the whole body, by joints and bands, being supplied with nourishment and compacted, groweth unto the increase of God" (Col. ii. 19). If He has Himself appointed "some apostles, and some prophets, and other some evangelists, and other some pastors and doctors", it is "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: until we all meet into the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ", and so that "doing the truth in charity we may in all things grow up in him who is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body, being compacted and fitly joined together, by what every joint supplieth, according to the operation in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in charity" (Eph. iv. 11-16).

From the twofold action of Christ comes the distinction of the two great hierarchic powers. The power of serving as instrument of Christ the Priest to perpetuate the redemptive sacrifice in the Mass and to communicate the fullness of Christian grace through the sacraments—this is the power of order.[52] And the power of serving as instrument of Christ the King, so as to continue under His action to preach the fullness of Christian truth to the world—this is the power of jurisdiction, the pastoral power, [53] the authority to teach what is to be believed and what done.

The end of the power of order is to convey to all ages in a hidden manner the drama of the Redemption and its fruits. The end of the power of jurisdiction, understood here in the broadest sense as covering both the extraordinary authority of the Apostles and the regular authority of their successors, is to prolong Christ's witness to the truth by openly proclaiming to all ages the whole plenitude of Christian truth, both speculative and practical.

The power of order which bestows grace and justifies from sin, opens heaven directly, se extendit ad ipsum coelum immediate, directe, as St. Thomas says.[54] The power of jurisdiction points the way to heaven: it enabled the Apostles to reveal new truths, it enables the Pope to determine the object of faith, to assemble a General Council, [55] to regulate the legitimate use of the power of order, to absolve, excommunicate, grant indulgences, [56] and to control all things in the Church militant.[57]

2. Their Respective Characters

The power of order and that of jurisdiction differ not only in their purpose, but in their nature, and in the mode of their transmission.

1. The two powers differ in nature. The power of order is a participation of the priesthood of Christ. The sacramental characters, says St. Thomas, "are nothing else than certain participations of Christ's priesthood, flowing from Christ Himself".[58] The power of jurisdiction is a participation of Christ's kingship: Christ being Head of the Church in a sovereign manner and in virtue of His own proper authority, the others being heads in a dependent manner and as delegated by Christ.[59]

The end of Christ's priesthood is to pour into souls the very virtue of the Redemption. The created intermediaries are unable to produce so divine an effect save as simple instruments. The sacramental power is therefore a purely instrumental [60] ministerial power. Hence it is infallible, not of course on account of its own proper virtue, but because it transmits the virtue of a Principal Agent.[61] But the end of Christ's kingship is the outward proclamation of the full divine revelation, so that the created intermediaries can here play a freer part. The power of jurisdiction is still ministerial; but it can be said to act more in the manner of a secondary cause; and it will not be infallible save in so far as it is divinely aided.

The power of order, which exists to bring the redemptive virtue to souls, is a physical spiritual participation of the spiritual power of Christ the Priest. For if "the instrument must be proportioned to the agent"[62] there will have to be a proportion, a conformity between those who act as the habitual instruments of redemption and Christ, who is its source. Hence the power of order. Like every sacramental character, the power of order is a physical spiritual power and hence indelible.[63] It can persist, and can even be transmitted, in schism and heresy.[64] The power of jurisdiction, which exists for the external preaching of Christian truth, speculative and practical, is a moral authority, mission and power; it is kept on the line of truth and preserved from error by providential aid involving various prophetic graces ranging from oral and scriptural inspiration, the privilege of the Apostles, to the graces of assistance given to their successors. It is lost as soon as the subject leaves the Church. Apostolic authority, but not the power of order, was lost to Judas. No regular jurisdiction can of itself continue under conditions of heresy and schism.[65]

2. The two powers differ in the mode of their transmission. The sacramental power, being physical, will be normally conferred by way of consecration, per consecrationem (consecration received from Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders). The power of jurisdiction, being moral, will be normally conferred by way of designation, of commission, of mandate, ex simplici injunctione.[66]

3. Their Mutual Dependence

The two powers of order and jurisdiction are really distinct. But they are not independent of each other.

One of the functions of the power of jurisdiction is to determine the conditions under which the power of order is to be exercised. In this respect, it is the power of order that depends on that of jurisdiction. It does so always for its legitimate exercise. It does so even at times for its valid exercise: thus jurisdiction is required for the valid administration of the sacrament of Penance; thus a simple priest cannot validly confer Confirmation and the Minor Orders without delegation from the Sovereign Pontiff; thus most theologians consider that the Church can determine, in individuo, the valid matter and form of certain sacraments, such as those of Confirmation and Order. Moreover the most general end of the power of jurisdiction is the preservation to all ages of the full truth of the Christian revelation; and without that, the very existence of the power of order would be precarious. And the extraordinary jurisdiction of the Apostles carried with it, besides authority to reveal the divine economy of Christianity to the world, the power, not indeed of instituting, but of promulgating certain sacraments.

On the other hand the power of jurisdiction resides in a regular and connatural manner only in the bishops, in whom is the plenitude of the power of order. In this respect it is the power of jurisdiction that depends on that of order. And if the power of jurisdiction can in fact exist in those who lack the power of order, its ultimate and definitive subject is to be found, not in them, but in others who possess it.

Since the sovereign priesthood and the supreme kingship are inseparable in Christ who is the Head, it is to be expected that the powers of jurisdiction and order, their two-fold derivative, should be strictly united in order to act on the Church which is His Body. They constitute, according to St. Paul's image, the system of joints and ligaments by which the increase of charity and truth, and, in a word, the unity of one life, descends from head to body. It would be an error therefore to think of two hierarchies, one of order and the other of jurisdiction. There is one sole hierarchy, with two distinct but interdependent powers. It is there already with the first degrees of the power of order. It reaches completion in the bishops, in whom resides the plenitude of the power of order, and who possess permanent jurisdiction by ordinary and proper title. It is finally consummated in the Bishop of Rome, in whom alone resides permanent universal jurisdiction. The ministers of lower rank, and the priests, belong to the hierarchy, but their powers are incomplete and dependent; the two permanent powers of the hierarchy, those of order and of jurisdiction, are fully reunited only in the body apostolic directly constituted by the Pope and the bishops.

According to the Code of Canon Law, which here summarizes the Councils of Trent and the Vatican, the permanent hierarchy "comprises in virtue of divine right, in the line of order: bishops, priests, and ministers; and, in the line of jurisdiction: a supreme pontificate and a subordinated episcopate."[67]

The hierarchic powers of the Church are often called "the Church teaching" as opposed to the "Church believing".

4. The Church Teaching And The Church Believing

The hierarchy carries the two-fold power of order and of jurisdiction, and is therefore not only the "Church teaching" but also the "Church sanctifying".

1. To these terms would be opposed "the Church taught" and "the Church sanctified;" or rather, the Church believing and the Church loving. That of course is not a division of the Church into two distinct societies, or two halves of a society each with its own distinct set of members. It is a division between a power assisted by Christ to define the truth, speculative and practical, on the one hand, and all who recognize this power, not excluding the Sovereign Pontiff, the bishops and the clergy, on the other.[68] Inasmuch as they are the depositaries and the organs of the power of jurisdiction, the Pope and the bishops constitute the Church teaching; but inasmuch as they too have souls to save, minds and hearts to be dedicated to God, they are parts of the Church believing and loving." They are bound, like all other Christians, under pain of endangering their eternal salvation, to accept all utterances pertaining to the divine law, even when it falls to their lot to propose them solemnly to the world for the first time: thus, not to lose his faith, Pius IX had to believe, along with the rest of us, the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and of Papal Infallibility. As to decrees resting on ecclesiastical law that they themselves have promulgated, here again the hierarchy are bound to conform; not, doubtless, because a ruler can bind himself juridically before men by his own decrees, but because he binds himself morally before God, who will accuse him at the Last Day of "having said and not done", with having laid heavy burdens on men's shoulders and stirred no finger to lift them (Matt. xxiii. 3-4).[69]

The division of the Church into Church teaching and sanctifying on the one hand, and Church believing and loving on the other, does not correspond to any division into active and passive. The Church teaching and sanctifying is, admittedly, active with respect to the Church believing, loving and doing; but this latter, in order to be profoundly docile to the jurisdiction that Jesus has left in the world, is by no means inert. There is nothing more alive than a faith that knows what it has to believe, than a love that knows what it ought to love and to do.[70]

2. The hierarchic powers of order and jurisdiction have for their depositaries men who, in themselves, are part of the Church believing. These powers are exterior to the Church believing as an efficient cause (ministerial) is exterior to its effect; and it is from this standpoint that we shall chiefly consider them in this first book. But under another aspect they are interior to the Church, for they reside in men who are members of the Church believing, and who share in the faith and charity common to Christians. And that suffices to bring out the profound unity of the Church teaching and the Church believing. It can be compared to the sense of sight which might be said in a way to direct our bodily motions from without, but which nevertheless belongs to the body, and verifies the same law of assimilation and transmutation as do all the other bodily organs. "A man's body is all one though it has a number of different organs. . . so it is with Christ. . . And you are Christ's body, organs of it depending upon each other. God has given us different positions in the Church; apostles first, then prophets, and thirdly teachers. . ." (1 Cor. xii. 12 and 27).

Note however that properly speaking the hierarchic powers are not spontaneously generated by the life of the Church believing, as for example the organ of sight is spontaneously generated at a definite instant in the physiological development of the embryo. The hierarchic powers themselves preside from the outset over the formation and conservation of the Church of faith and of charity. They are prior to her; not with a priority of temporal succession, but with the priority which an always active ministerial cause can have over the effect it unceasingly produces. The hierarchic power, which we have called the apostolic body, is an organic institution founded by Christ and enjoying an uninterrupted life. The individual members pass away, but the body as such does not pass away; it is as an everlasting living thing—it will last, to be precise, as long as history. Hence there will never come a moment in the life of the Church when, having been deprived of its hierarchy, the Church believing will have to reconstitute it by a kind of exteriorisation and re-achievement of itself; as the evolutive power of the embryo calls up the sense of sight from the depths of the organism.



The Church derives her most precious and most inward gifts from the hierarchy; and from the imprint which the hierarchy stamps upon her comes her created soul.[71] This latter has power to construct, animate and organize under it the whole great body of the Church.

I shall here attempt a very summary sketch of the Church as seen from this standpoint; turning to account what we already know of her and drawing by anticipation on what remains to be said.

We shall consider the following points. 1. The power of order helps to enrich the Church with two fundamental spiritual elements: the sacramental character and sacramental grace. 2. The jurisdictional or pastoral power, whose directives are interiorized in the hearts of Christians by faith and obedience, orientates all their activity, contemplative and practical, to divine truth. 3. The created soul of the Church is now constituted in its integrity. Under its influence the visible Church takes form—a Church outside of which is no salvation, but within which those already begin to be included who belong to it "by desire", that is to say by a genuine movement of charity. 4. The just who are still said to be "outside" the Church, although they are not yet fully within it, are on the way to be so; they are within it in virtual act. 5. Membership by desire can be concealed under quite a variety of different outward attitudes.

Finally, something will be said concerning Catholic oecumenicism.

1. The Power Of Order's Help In Forming The Church: Sacramental Character And Sacramental Grace

The power of order enables those who possess it to act as instrumental causes in the transmission of the sacramental power (or the sacramental character) and of sacramental grace.

1: The Sacramental Character.

In this respect the Church distinguishes her children according as they are laymen or in Holy Orders.

The laity, as the name indicates (laos people) are the Christian people. They too are already consecrated. It is the modern world, not the Church, that opposes the terms "laic" and "consecrated".[72] The non-consecrated consist, in reality, of the catechumens and, more generally, all the unbaptized whether in good or bad faith. As to the laity, the consecrations effected by Baptism and Confirmation give them a certain participation of the sacerdotal power of Christ. They are members qualified to offer liturgically, along with the priest, the sacrifice of the New Law, to be ministers of the sacrament of their own marriages, and to receive the other sacraments from the hands of the priest.

Those who receive the sacrament of Order participate in a third consecration thanks to which the sacrifice and sacrament of the Eucharist are perpetuated in the world, and thanks to which the two-fold lay consecration attains to its full exercise and full significance.

The consecrations bestowed by Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders are spiritual and supernatural powers.[73] They are supernatural, not simply in the mode of their production, like miracles, but also in themselves. They bring us participation in what is most inward and hidden in the omnipotence of the Deity.[74] In this sense, their spirituality is even more precious than that of the angels if we consider them simply in their nature. The saints understand the grandeur of the sacramental characters and have even caught miraculous glimpses of it—notably that of order. What we know only by faith, became on occasion actually visible to them. St. Philip Neri guessed that a certain youth of sixteen or seventeen in layman's clothing had been secretly ordained priest, saying "that he had seen a great splendour on the forehead of this young man which could be only the sacerdotal character imprinted on his soul."[75] It has been granted to other saints "habitually to perceive the sacerdotal character in the souls of priests. It appeared to them as no merely superadded and separable exterior ornament, but as an intimate constituent of the very substance of the soul, in the manner of sanctifying grace, transforming it and making it a participant of the eternal priesthood of Christ, of His dignity and powers." The consecrated hands of priests meant far more to them than hands marked with the stigmata.

The invisible consecration conferred by the sacraments, the sacramental character, is thus an essential element of the Church, a spiritual component of the Church. It belongs to the created soul of the Church.

2: Sacramental Grace.

The power of order furthermore enables those who have it to act, whether by exclusive or normal title, as instrumental causes in the transmission of grace.[76] Now the sacraments confer grace not simply in its simple and naked substance—as it is found in the catechumen, in the "savage", in the unbaptized in good faith whom God justifies in secret—but also, up to a point, with those full and perfect modalities that it had in the soul of Our Lord. This is because Jesus chose the sacraments as the means for conveying grace from His heart to ours, so that it comes through these channels in its integrity and vigour and delicacy, under the immediate influence of His sacred humanity.[77] The words "immediate influence" need comment. We have here not what the ancients called the immediacy "of the suppositum", for the whole sacrament with its rite and minister is interposed between Christ and the recipient, but what they called a "virtual immediacy", since the whole virtue of the sacrament is due, not to the sacrament itself, but solely to Christ. Thus the grace that comes by the sacraments is rich in formalities denied to grace that is given without them. It is rather like the light of the sun and the light of the moon—they are of the same species, says John of St. Thomas, but the former is charged with more virtualities. So also grace is of the same species in one who receives the sacraments in fact (re) and in one who receives them only in desire (voto); but in the first case, though it might be less intense, it would of necessity be in some ways more complete. We must distinguish between the sanctifying grace needful for the salvation of all men without exception, and the sacramental grace which gives sanctifying grace its freest and fullest development, enabling it to take on those characteristics that it had in Christ, and thus to form in space and time the lineaments of His Mystical Body, that is to say of His Church. Thus it is within that one sole religious society, brought forth, formed and fed by the sacraments, that the fullness of Christ is represented, and the Body of Christ is unmutilated. In those who, like the catechumens and the "good savage", receive the sacraments only in desire, and not in fact, grace lacks a certain special modality.[78] They are like wanderers searching for their own country, sheep already won for Christ but not yet numbered with the flock.

Thus among the spiritual components of the Church, we must count not only the sacramental character but sacramental grace. So that this too belongs to the created soul of the Church.

2. The Role Of The Jurisdictional Or Pastoral Power

Sacramental grace, which can be given in its fullness only by aid of the power of order, is the very substance of the Christian life. It is to be the principle of all its ulterior developments. For supernatural life cannot remain always dormant, as in the soul of a baptized child. It is destined to awaken and to become active. One cannot conceive of faith thinking of nothing, hope expecting nothing, charity loving nothing—or, for that matter, as thinking of, hoping for, or loving anything and everything indifferently. This would be spiritual death. Life demands to develop, to pass from the indeterminate to the determinate, from power to act; by its very nature it must choose. And if the life in question is supernatural and divine, its choices, if nothing untoward occurs, will be likewise supernatural and divine. It needs to know with divine and supernatural certitude what is to be believed or not believed, what is to be hoped for or not hoped for, what loved or not loved, what done or not done. The God who created it will not leave it without speculative and practical directions which it will be its business to follow. It postulates them, feels after them, and often anticipates them. The power of order, by which God normally awakens supernatural life in the soul, corresponds to the power of jurisdiction by which He normally shows it the way it should go.[79] So that even sacramental grace, when deprived of the guidance that comes from jurisdiction, lives an attenuated and constantly threatened life, only too likely to atrophy. Thus both powers are needed, the one to give sanctifying grace the fullness of its being and vigour, the other to direct and specify it. Thus and thus only can grace, conjointly with the sacramental character, form the created soul of the Church, the unifying form that holds the Church together in the bonds of truth and of love, and stamps her with the stamp of Him whose faithful and abiding image, in every place and time, it is her destiny to be.

Thus we must include among the spiritual elements which go to make up the Ecclesia credens, the right orientation which the jurisdictional power communicates to the divine potencies and virtues—given of course that this orientation is freely accepted by the faith and obedience of the faithful, i. e. assimilated by them and interiorized within them. The sacramental character, sacramental grace, the jurisdictional orientation duly interiorized—there we have the three spiritual components of the created soul of the Church.

3. The Meaning Of The Maxim "Outside The Church No Salvation"

It is at the precise point at which God, by the two-fold power of the apostolic hierarchy, makes contact with men that we must look for the created soul of the Church, and then go on to study the body it animates. For the created soul and the body of the Church are, of themselves, coextensive—in other words, the created soul does not extend beyond its body, nor the body beyond its soul. "The faithful" wrote St. Augustine," must become the Body of Christ if they would live by the Spirit of Christ. Understand, my brothers, what I have said. You are a man, you have a spirit and you have a body. A spirit, I say, called the soul, by which it appears that you are man, because composed of soul and body. You have then an invisible spirit and a visible body. Tell me now, which of these two lives by the other—is it your spirit that lives by your body, or your body by your spirit? Every living man will know how to reply, and if anyone cannot reply I know not whether he lives. And what does every living man reply? That it is the body, of course, that lives by the spirit. Would you then, for your part, live by the Spirit of Christ? Then be in the Body of Christ. Does my body live by your spirit? Mine lives by my spirit, and yours by yours. The Body of Christ cannot live at all, if not by the Spirit of Christ." He adds a little further on: "It is the Spirit that quickens, for it is the spirit that makes the members live. It gives life to those members only whom it finds in the body it quickens. The spirit that is in you, O man, and by which you are a man—does it then quicken any member that has been separated from your flesh? Your spirit is what I call your soul, and your soul quickens only those members that are in your body; if you cut off any one of them it soon ceases to be quickened by your soul, since it has no longer any share in the unity of your body. I say these things that you should learn to love unity and fear separation. The Christian should fear nothing so much as separation from the Body of Christ. Once he is separated he is no longer a member of Christ; and if he is not a member of Christ he is no longer quickened by the Spirit of Christ. For, says the Apostle, he who has not the Spirit of Christ, is not of Christ."[80] The fundamental law of the coextension of the created soul and body of the Church is not contradicted by the fact that sanctifying grace may be found among the unbaptized or the non-Catholic baptized. There are two reasons for this. First of all, grace has to be sacramental and duly orientated before it contributes to the constitution of the perfect soul of the Church; and secondly, although the soul of the Church is only prefigured where the sacramental character, or sacramental grace, or orientated grace are lacking, yet the body of the Church begins to be prefigured there too. Nor is the fundamental law of the co-extension of the created soul and body of the Church contradicted by the fact that many sinners lacking grace continue to be members of the Church; for it can be said that to the extent to which they still adhere to the Church these sinners receive spiritual influences which emanate from the entire soul of the Church, which in this sense is in them by its efficiency and, as it were, dynamically.

The preachers and apologists of the nineteenth century rather lost sight of St. Augustine's great doctrine. How were they to reconcile the axiom "Outside the Church, no salvation"[81] with the doctrine, everywhere received, that those who remain ignorant of the Church in good faith may nevertheless be in a state of grace and in the way to save their souls? Protestantism, prompt to dissociate invisible realities from visible, answered that there exists an "invisible Church" to which the just of all times belong, and a "visible Church" (or many visible Churches) which nobody is bound to enter. A certain number of Catholic writers, without wishing to dislocate the Church in this manner, imagined that her soul, i. e. sanctifying grace as they said, extended far beyond the limits of her body. They added that the just who in good faith remain ignorant of the Church, belong to the soul of the Church, and are therefore not outside her.

In the first place, however, such a mode of distinguishing the soul and body of the Church is without foundation in the authentic documents of the magisterium.[82] It would seem to have been influenced by the Protestant conception of a "spiritual Church", distinct from the "visible Church"[83], and its use appears to be dangerous.[84] On the other hand we can easily see that the soul of the Church is not sanctifying grace pure and simple, as found in those who remain ignorant of the Church in good faith, but sanctifying grace as transmitted by the sacramental power and ruled by the jurisdictional power.

To reconcile the axiom "Outside the Church, no salvation", with the doctrine of the possible salvation of those who remain ignorant of the Church in all good faith, there is no need to manufacture any new theory. All we have to do is to apply to the Church the traditional distinction made in connection with the necessity of Baptism, the door by which the Church is entered. To the question: Can anybody be saved without Baptism? St. Thomas, who here draws on the thought of St. Ambrose, replies that those who lack Baptism re et voto, that is to say who neither are nor want to be baptized, cannot come to salvation, "since they are neither sacramentally nor mentally incorporated into Christ, by whom alone is salvation". But those who lack Baptism re, sed non voto, that is to say "who desire Baptism, but are accidentally overtaken by death before receiving it, can be saved without actual Baptism, in virtue of their desire for Baptism, coming from a faith that works by charity, by which God, whose power is not circumscribed by visible sacraments, sanctifies man interiorly".[85] Conformably with this distinction we shall say that the axiom "No salvation outside the Church" is true of those who do not belong to the Church, which in herself is visible, either visibly (corporaliter) or even invisibly, either by the sacraments (sacramentaliter) or even in spirit (mentaliter); either fully (re) or even by desire (voto); either in accomplished act or even in virtual act.[86] The axiom does not concern the just who, without yet belonging to the Church visibly, in accomplished act (re), do so invisibly, in virtual act, in spirit, by desire (mentaliter, voto), that is to say in virtue of the supernatural righteousness of their lives, even while, through insurmountable ignorance, they know nothing of the sanctity, or even of the existence, of the Church.[87]

4. The Just "Without" Belong To The Church By Desire, Not In Accomplished Act

I do not say that there is no supernatural life at all outside the Church, but simply that there is none that does not look towards her.[88] As preliminary to a deeper study of the soul of the Church, let us examine more closely the position of the just "outside".

They are to be found either in those groups which lack the sacraments of the New Law (paganism, Islam, Judaism, and Protestant sects such as the Quakers), or in those groups which, while separating themselves from the Church, have kept, among other good things, various genuine sacraments. (We may call them dissidents: Graeco-Russians, and traditionalist Protestants.) [89]

1. The just of the first category enjoy supernatural life—i. e. sanctifying grace issuing in the infused virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The whole tendency of this life is to grow towards completion, to enrich itself with those modalities which grace possesses in the sacred humanity of Christ, to open out, in a word, into that sacramental grace which, as we have seen, is a primary and fundamental element of the soul of the Church. It thus creates in those who have it a kind of living aspiration to that soul, a real and ontological desire for the Church. Men of this sort are of the Church, say the theologians, not yet re but already voto, mentaliter, by desire. Membership re and membership voto are here opposed, not as real membership to unreal, but as actual, consummated ontological membership to virtual, prefigured ontological membership, as membership in achieved act to membership in virtual act. Membership re, visible, corporeal, terminal, achieved, may be compared with membership voto, invisible, spiritual, prefigured, of desire; as the plant in flower is compared with the plant in bud; or, to take Bellarmine's comparison, as the man with the child still hidden in his mother's womb.[90]

However reduced may be the activities of grace in such souls, they will still be in need of speculative and practical directives. They must know, for example—if they are to believe in them supernaturally—of the existence and providence of God, of the principles of morality and so on. Data of this sort are doubtless woven into the religious and cultural web within which they live, but are bound to be vitiated by endless errors. Each will have to do what he can on his own account, under the inner influence of the Holy Spirit who fails no one—though we may all too easily mistake our own voice for His—to sift the true from the false, the good from the bad. There will be omissions and inaccuracies, more or less serious according to the religious group concerned—Judaism for example or Islam being more helpful than paganism, itself a thing of many degrees. In so far as these religions shut out the truth they are instruments of darkness; but by such truths as they have retained (or perhaps regained), they may, however accidentally and imperfectly, be sources of light for millions of souls inwardly sustained by the Holy Spirit.

2. The just of the second category, the dissident groups, are in a better position. Like the rest, they belong to the Church not completely—not re—but in a way that is initial, virtual, beginning, voto. Note however that membership by desire is realized in an analogous or proportional manner; more feebly in the first category, and to a greater degree of perfection in the second, where certain genuine sacraments of the New Law have been retained, along with numerous traditional data in the speculative and practical orders.

The Graeco-Russian dissidents have kept the power of order with its three degrees: bishops, priests, and deacons. It has been perpetuated among them in virtue of the validly transmitted consecration of those who first made the schism. Thanks to the power of order the redemptive sacrifice is offered and the sacraments preserved: Baptism undoubtedly, and Confirmation, enabling the laity to partake to a certain extent of the sacerdotal power of Christ; the Eucharist too, the end of all the other sacraments, which of itself, whenever it is received with the right dispositions, tends to bestow spiritual life—not, like Baptism, in an inchoate state, but in a consummated state [91]—and to form the Church, the Body of Christ, the "sacrament of piety, the sign of unity, the bond of charity."[92] The just who belong to these Graeco-Russian groups truly possess, besides the triple sacramental character that enables them validly to continue the celebration of the Christian rite, that sacramental grace which though not, in isolation, the soul of the Church, is nevertheless a primary and fundamental constituent of the soul of the Church.

Those dissident groups of the Reformed in which Baptism is still validly administered—whose marriages are therefore held by the Roman Church to be authentically sacramental [93]—can still participate, but in an attenuated way, in the sacramental benefits: the sacerdotal power of Christ is imparted to them only in Baptism, sacramental grace only in Baptism and the sacrament of Matrimony.

As to the supernatural directives needed to give sacramental grace its collective orientation and the final perfection which will make it the soul of the Church, an immanent form uniting, ruling, and vivifying the whole Mystical Body of Christ, they exist outside the Catholic Church as doctrinal patterns—much more important and closely organized in Graeco-Russian Christianity, where the process of separation has not gone so far, than in the Protestant variety, and much more important in Protestantism, where the two Testaments are respected, than in the religions of the non-baptized. That the number of the sacraments should diminish with the value of these doctrinal patterns is easy to understand. When the Protestants of England ceased to believe in the Eucharist their ordinations ceased to be valid, and the power of order lost its divine significance.[94] Today, the Protestant modernists, who do not believe in original sin, no longer attach any great importance to the reception of Baptism. The denial of any divine power of jurisdiction, and the consequent denial of any infallible truth in dogmatic pronouncements, tends of itself to the suppression of the sacramental power.

3. In the unbaptized just, and in those of the Protestant and Graeco-Russian groups, the soul of the Church is, as it were, in formation, yet can nowhere come to fulfilment. For even where sacramental grace attains the fullness of its being and of its modalities, as among the Graeco-Russians, it lacks light, encountering directives which are not always sufficient and not always certain, neither infallibly guaranteed as a whole nor protected from the corrosive influence of modern errors; and it cannot possibly achieve that plenitude which would issue in the created soul of the Church, the immanent ruling form of the Mystical Body of Christ.

It is important to note here that when we say that the Church is in formation outside the Church, we are looking at things in a way which, from an ecclesiological standpoint, is accidental and secondary. We mean that those who broke with the Church took with them certain good things which by their very nature belong to her. In themselves, in virtue of their own internal exigencies, these scattered fragments demand to be reintegrated in the Church, and we know that the universal saving virtue of the God of mercy works mysteriously and incessantly for their reintegration. But clearly this reintegrating movement works in precisely the opposite direction to the original movement by which the dissident Churches cut themselves off from the true Church, and it can gain ground only by sapping the specific principle by which these Churches willed, and still will, to differ from the true Church. Outside the Church the Church is in formation, but this comes about accidentally, by violence done to the course things have taken. Outside the Church, the Church, of itself, is in decomposition. Any fragments of life broken off from her are no sooner detached from their native whole and subjected to the influence of the principle of dissidence, than they begin to disintegrate and decay.

Thus it is entirely right to hold that the struggle of light against darkness is the struggle of the Church against the world; but we must add that even in this world the Church has One who works for her in secret, the hidden God who mysteriously enlightens every man, whose wisdom reaches from end to end of the universe, and who does not reap where He has not sown.

Other things being equal—that is to say, supposing an equal intensity of charity everywhere—membership of the Church by desire possesses a greater and greater degree of perfection as we pass from the non-baptized just to those of the traditionalist Protestant Churches, and then to those of the Graeco-Russian Churches. But by a very disconcerting paradox, the movement of conversion to the Church is not necessarily in direct, but rather in inverse, ratio to the religious perfection of these various groups. It may be that there is some mystery here like that of the Gentiles, whose conversion en masse is to precede the entry of Israel into the Church.

5. The Different A Attitudes That May Co-Exist With Membership By Desire

Turning now from groups of believers to individual persons, we note that membership by desire—that is to say the authentic movement of charity which effectively unites a soul to the Church—may co-exist with very diverse attitudes of mind, some of which may strike the faithful as rather strange. But it is not for the faithful, or for the theologians or even for the jurisdictional authority, to be the final judge of the salvation of each particular soul. That is for God alone. There are three typical attitudes, around which we may easily group the others.

First there is that of the catechumens. They have expressly asked for Baptism and the gates of the Church, which they know to be the Body of Christ, stand open before them. Their desire for her is fully conscious and explicit.

The second attitude is that of the unbaptized child who awakes at one and the same time to the life of reason and to the life of faith, and turns to his last end with a profound aspiration which will count as Baptism by desire and will bring him to the heart of the Kingdom of God.[95] One grown to manhood in the forests, away from the company of men, and suddenly illumined by an inner inspiration showing him what to believe, would be in a similar position.[96] In these two cases, and others like them, the desire that saves these men, though it springs from a faith vitalized by charity, is not always accompanied by explicit knowledge of Baptism or of the Church, nor even perhaps of the Incarnation and the Trinity: the explicit content of faith then amounting to two points which, in the supereminent mystery of their riches, contain all the articles of the creed: namely that "God is, and rewards those who seek after Him" (Heb. xi. 6).

The third attitude is that of men who are aware of the existence and activity of the Church, but who, far from seeming to move towards her, show themselves ill-disposed, perhaps oppose her with all their conscious powers, even persecute her; and yet do this because of insurmountable errors for which God does not hold them responsible, sincerely convinced as they are that they work for justice and truth. Their hostility to the Church can coexist with an authentic movement of faith working by charity, which attaches them closely to the very Church that they detest, but whose sons they already are. Newman had long given up "choosing his way" and was content to be led by the divine light; yet still the Church of Rome seemed to him to be allied with Antichrist. There are more things in a man's heart than are dreamt of in his philosophy; or even, often enough, in his theology.

6. Catholic Oecumenicism

In an important and well-documented work, profoundly original in its approach, in which he considers how dissidents (whether as individuals or as Churches) should be regarded by Catholics, and discusses the burning questions raised by the present divisions among Christians, Pere Congar has tried to define the principles of a Catholic oecumenicism.[97]

1. Taken in the Protestant sense, he says, oecumenicism "is neither the attempt nor the wish to re-unite Christian groups, considered as dissident, to a single Church considered as the sole true one. It arises among those who hold that no Christian confession in its present state possesses the fullness of Christianity; that even if some one of them is true, it does not, as a confession, possess the totality of truth, but that other Christian values exist outside it, not only among Christians confessionally separated from it, but in other confessions or other Churches, as confessions and as Churches." Pere Congar does not expressly dissociate himself from these last words.[98] But he goes on at once to declare that:

"To the extent to which this oecumenicism supposes that the different existing Christianities, having all failed at some point, possess each but a part of the truth and ought therefore, repenting and humbling themselves before God, to negotiate on a footing of equality, to consent to some sacrifices, and to unite in the profession of what of Christian truth is common to them all, while mutually respecting their differences—to the extent to which oecumenicism is that, there can be no such thing as a Catholic oecumenicism.

"But if oecumenicism, as a specific movement of thought and action, is simply an awareness that a problem of re-union exists, that this problem is not exhausted, nor even fully opened up, by an exclusive emphasis on individual conversions, but that there is room for a theological determination of the status of the dissident Christianities as Christianities, of the relations of the dissident Churches, as Churches, to the true Church and to its unity—then indeed there can be, and we think that there ought to be and is, a Catholic oecumenicism."

2. Desirous of pushing courtesy and good feeling as far as possible, Congar seems to distinguish two moments in the spiritual attitude whence dissidence springs—at the inception of Luther's revolt for instance, or Calvin's. There is first an extremely vivid awareness of some authentically Christian truth: gratuitousness of justification in Luther's case, transcendence of the divine holiness in Calvin's. Then comes a second moment which consists in tearing this truth away from the organic wholeness of the revealed deposit in which it was given us, so as to live it apart and thus to falsify it. From this standpoint it can be said that "at the origin of the great secessions there was as a rule a genuine spiritual impetus which, in so far as it was positive and disinterested, was truly Catholic;"[99] or again that Lutheranism is true "as a spiritual attitude", but that the error which, precisely, constitutes Lutheranism comes from the fact that "Luther, taking into account nothing but his own violent and personal experience, projected it into an abstract and universal theological doctrine;"[100] or again, that "what is true in, for instance, the Lutheran. . . experience is. . . a loss to the Catholic Church of today, and calls by its very nature for reintegration in it;" that, "all that is pure in Protestant or Orthodox piety or in that pietas Anglicana which gives Anglicanism its peculiar ethos is a loss, not indeed to the substance of the Church but to the expression and embodiment of its life, or at least to the wholeness of that expression."[101]

I think, for my part, that it would be more correct to take the original intuition, the "seminal reason" whence Lutheranism was to spring, as something essentially indivisible, impossible to decompose into an authentically Christian truth on the one hand, and a complication of this truth with distorting errors on the other. I believe that the primitive Lutheran intuition of justification was itself intrinsically falsified because it inseparably associated the gratuitousness of justification with its forensic character. The Barthian intuition is false in itself because it inseparably associates the transcendence of the divine holiness with its incommunicability. The idee-mere of Lutheranism, Calvinism, Barthianism and the rest, appears to me to be the doubtless complex but unique concept, the unique idea and experience of a deformed truth, not a juxtaposition of two ideas, two experiences, one true and the other false.

Undoubtedly Luther might have undergone authentic Christian experiences, whether before the rupture (against Grisar, I do not believe that his great trials before 1518 were due to any neurotic crisis) [102] or even after—the thing is possible but remains God's secret; in any case these Christian experiences, if authentic, are exterior to the specifically Lutheran basic experience. And doubtless too Luther retained, alongside the basic intuition of Lutheranism, an important inheritance of authentic Christian truths; the drama of the history of Protestantism as a doctrine lies precisely in the internal tension between the old and the new in it, the divine and the human. Upright and saintly Protestants who have inherited the Lutheran patrimony may certainly be in possession of authentic Christian values, but the purity of these values will be compromised by them in the precise measure in which, whether in formulating them or in living them, they give way to the vertigo of the primitive Lutheran experience. And it will be safeguarded, contrariwise, in the measure in which they are freed from it by the inner power of the Spirit, who breathes wheresoever He will.

Yet it is possible—and may often happen—that the state of dissidence in which such men find themselves may accidentally favour the discovery of new aspects of the Christian inheritance. We do not imagine, for example, that we have nothing of religious value to learn from the Orthodox or the Anglicans. Heresies, said St. Augustine, are thorns that prick us out of our torpor: and amongst the thorns we may at times find roses. But in the measure in which the discoveries or experiences of dissidents have occurred under the influence of heresy, they will need to be rectified before they can be integrated. A certain theologian, illustrating his doctrine by a comparison, has supposed that just as blindness develops an extreme delicacy of touch, so dissidence could accidentally bring to light new spiritual aspects of the Gospel. But this comparison passes over a point that is not to be neglected. Blindness in no wise falsifies the sense of touch, whereas dissidence always more or less falsifies the outlook on religious life. As Pere Congar forcibly says, we shall never ask our separated fellow-Christians to abandon any of the true values they hold. We shall only ask them to replace these values in the organic whole of Christian life and truth from which in the past they were torn, purifying them, where necessary, with a view to this reintegration. To purify is not to diminish. Unfortunately to the natural man purification commonly looks like an amputation !

Let us add, with Pere Congar, that if our separated fellow-Christians of East and West had only remained with us in the Church they would have helped us, not only by their personal qualities, but by reason of their own peculiar ethnic or spiritual temperament, to develop less imperfectly the riches of our Church. For she, being divine, has more in her than the Latin genius alone—or the genius of all the peoples of the world together—can seize and live.

To return to our late problem, it may well be that between Pere Congar and myself there is merely a difference of presentation and point of view, and at bottom a real accord. This would seem to be proved by passages such as the following: "To the extent to which the dissident Christianities have preserved the principles of communion with God left by Christ to His Church, there remains in them, with whatever mingling of errors, still something of the Church, some fibres of her being; and it may be true to say that souls can sanctify themselves in them not merely in spite of their confession, but in and by their confession. Only we must understand what we are saying. The thing is true only in virtue of what the dissident confessions have retained of the Church; it is true of them, if one may put it so, against them; for, in virtue of what they have of their own and in themselves, it is indeed in spite of them that souls are sanctified in their midst."[103] Briefly, souls of the dissident groups are sanctified in virtue of what is Catholic in their confession, and in spite of the principle of dissidence.

3. In a remarkable passage of his Unity in the Church (Die Einheit in der Kirche), where he sets out to define "the true nature of the contrasts in the Church", Moehler touches on the question of the ontological relations between the Church and the dissident formations that arose out of heresy. The organic life of the Church, he says, is the resultant at once of the closest unity and the richest diversity. It harmonises contrasts which, outside the Church, tend to start apart into contradictions: the contemplative and active tendencies, the mystical and the speculative, and so on. The heresies, escaping the control of the unifying form of the Church, are incapable of preserving the living harmony of the contrasts, so that these rapidly dissolve into contradictions. Some heresies are characterized by activity only, others by repose; but in the Church repose is active and activity is in repose—the contrasts interpenetrate and issue in a unity.[104]

Moehler was asked whether the Church should not unite with the heresies so as to issue in a still higher and richer reality. The answer was easy: by uniting with the heresies the Church would be absorbing not contrasts but contradictions. She takes up already into her unity, he said, all those contrasts, all those Christian truths, which heresy arrays against each other. She is integral. But the principle that sets the heresies at odds with each other is not included in her unity. Thus she is the unconscious unity of all the heresies before their separation, and their conscious unity after their separation; during the separation she is opposed to all of them, as they are opposed to each other. What constituted Montanism or Gnosticism and made them what they were had absolutely nothing to do with Christianity, either in content or in form; and hence these elements are not Christian contrasts, and cannot be taken up into the unity of the Christian life.

How then can we claim that heresies are necessary for the development of the life of the Church?[105] It will not be out of place to remark that evil is always at work in Christians [106] and naturally issues in errors. "It is due to the influence of evil that elements which nature destined to be mere contrasts turn into contradictions; while it is always possible and even necessary that the faithful, respecting the true nature of contrasts, should give expression to all the possibilities of development within the Christian religion, making the free and harmonious play of diverse individualities concur to the enrichment of her life. But since the contrasts, without which there would be no life, turn into contradictions so often, the Church profits from the contribution brought to her life by the contrasts under this abortive form, without, for all that, recognizing them as absolutely necessary, and so as good. Thus evil never becomes good, although it can be the occasion of good, and we are not to suppose that the help of evil is needed in order to produce the good."

4. The Church asks for no easy thing. Neither a certain oecumenicism among non-Catholics, which suppresses the problem of conversion, nor the particularism of certain Catholics, who put up high fences round their charity, is according to her heart. We should endorse the following lines, which describe these two opposite deviations: "I distrust a friendship between believers of all denominations which is unaccompanied by any kind of compunction or sadness of soul, any friendship which is easy and comfortable; just as I distrust a universalism which claims to bring together all modes of belief and of worship in one same service of God and one same all-transcending piety. The duty of being faithful to the light, of always following it as soon as it is seen, is a duty not to be avoided. In other words, the problem of conversion, for anyone who feels the divine goad and feels its urgency, is one that cannot be set aside, any more than the corresponding duty of the apostolate. And, to make up for it, I have an equal distrust of a friendship between believers of the same denomination which is easy and comfortable just because it is reserved for the co-religionist, of a universalism which would limit love to brothers in the faith, of a proselytism which would not love the other save to convert him and in the measure in which he is convertible. . ."[107] If it is to take example from Christ's love, our love for the Church will have to extend beyond the Church.

It is God who, through the humanity of Christ and through the hierarchy, produces the Church in the world under her present regime.

God is the First Cause. The human nature of Christ is the organ of the Divinity, the instrumental cause substantially conjoined to the Person of the Word (as our hand is substantially conjoined to our own person). The hierarchy as a whole can be considered, taking the word in a large sense, as an instrument substantially separated from the Person of the Word (as a tool we pick up is separated from our own person).

The Church has therefore three efficient causes. But they do not act on the same level. They are not juxtaposed but subordinated. They are not univocal causes but analogical. The third depends on the second, which is a cause in an incomparably higher sense; and the second on the first, which is Cause in a way which is absolutely unique and incommunicable. To forget these facts, if only for an instant, would expose us to fatal errors. We must never be weary of recalling them.

But in this first Book, which deals with the efficient cause of the Church, we can discuss fully only the least of her causes, the hierarchy. The role of the human nature of Christ and that of the Divinity itself cannot at this stage be fully defined. For they are much more than the efficient causes of the Church. Christ as Man is not only an instrumental Cause but an exemplary Cause and final Cause as well: He is the Spouse and the Head of the Church. The Holy Spirit is not only the First Cause but also the personality, the guest, and the soul of the Church. We must study the nature of the Church to bring out her dependence on the humanity of Christ and on the Deity.

We shall therefore go on to examine more closely the two distinct powers of the apostolic hierarchy, namely the power of order (Chapter III) and the power of jurisdiction (Chapters IV to VIII); then their fusion in a single hierarchy (Chapter IX); and finally the property and note of apostolicity (Chapter X).

Let us again set out the exact sense in which we are going to take the word "Church" :

When Christ is said to be the efficient Cause of the Church, Christ is considered as distinct from the Church, and the latter then includes both the hierarchy and the faithful at large. This is how the word is most commonly taken.

When we speak of the hierarchy as the efficient cause of the Church, the hierarchy is considered as distinct from the Church. "The hierarchy" then signifies the teaching and sanctifying function whence the Church results; or what is sometimes called—though the expression may lead to confusion—the "Church teaching". And "the Church" signifies the Church as found in all her members, the people believing, loving, acting; or what is called the "Church believing"; to it of course belong the Pope, the bishops and all the ministers, by reason of the supernatural life that is in them. In this first part, then, we shall envisage the Church above all from this last standpoint, attributing to the concept Church its maximum extension but also its minimum comprehension.




The word "Church" can be taken in a "restricted" or impoverished sense, in an "intermediate" sense, and in a "large" or rich sense.

In the restricted sense the word means the Church as found in all the faithful, the Ecclesia credens, considered as the supreme effect to which the hierarchy, the Ecclesia docens, is ordered. It is thus that St. Paul understands the word when he tells the presbyter-bishops of Miletus to "Take heed to yourselves and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed you bishops, to rule the church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood", (Acts xx. 28). When theologians define the Church as "the community of the baptized faithful subject to a single visible head, the Vicar of Christ," the word is similarly taken in this restricted sense.

In the intermediate sense, common in St. Augustine, the word designates the totality of Christians, whether belonging to the hierarchy or the faithful. Christ is the Head, the Church is only the body. St. Thomas writes: "Quandoque enim [nomen Ecclesiae] nominat tantummodo corpus quod Christo conjungitur sicut capiti" (Suppl. q. 95, a. 3, ad 4; cf. IV Sent. dist. 49, q. 4, a. 3, ad 4). We may cite Col. i. 18: "And he is the head of the body, the church." St. Paul writes again of Christ that God "hath made him head over all the church, which is his body," (Eph. i. 22). The hierarchic functions are then comprised within the Church itself. To the Corinthians, whom he calls the body and members of Christ, St. Paul writes: "And God indeed hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly doctors, after that miracles, then the graces of healings, helps, governments, kinds of tongues, interpretations of speeches," (1 Cor. xii. 28).

In the large sense the word "Church" means the organic whole of which Christ is the Head and of which Christians are the body. This sense was noted by St. Thomas: "Alio modo accipitur Ecclesia secundum quod nominat caput et membra conjuncta," (Suppl. q. 95, a. 3, ad 4). In I Cor. xii. 12 we have: "For as the body is one, and hath many members; and all the members of the body, whereas they are many, yet are one body: so also is Christ", and in the expressions "to put on Christ", "to be buried in Christ", "to be grafted on Christ", what St. Paul calls "Christ" is the mystical Christ, the total Christ, Head and Body, that is to say the Church in the large sense.



Understood in the restricted sense the Church has for material cause the human nature of the Christians who make up the faithful (but we must repeat that the Pope and the bishops, although belonging to the Church teaching as depositaries of the hierarchic powers, are included in the Church believing as having souls to be saved).

The formal cause is the spiritual unity of the faithful, that is to say the unity of action (actus secundus) resulting from unity of soul (actus primus). This common soul of the faithful is constituted essentially by three elements: (1) the two sacramental characters of Baptism and Confirmation; (2) sacramental grace (for the order of exercise); (3) the right immanent orientation received, with faith and obedience, from the jurisdictional power (for the order of specification). Here we are speaking solely of the created soul of the Church, not of her uncreated Soul who is the Holy Spirit.

The extrinsic efficient causes are: (1) the Divinity considered as First Cause; (2) the humanity of Christ considered as instrumental cause conjoined to the Divinity; (3) the hierarchic powers of order (sacramental character of order) and of jurisdiction; which can be considered, strictly for the first and broadly for the second, as an instrumental cause separated from the Divinity. And for intrinsic efficient cause there is the supernatural soul, the "pneumatic" soul of the faithful, made up of the three elements named—viz. the two characters of Baptism and of Confirmation, sacramental grace, and the right immanent orientation received from the jurisdictional power—in so far as this soul is in proximate disposition (actus primus) to procure the unity of action of the Church (actus secundus). The soul of the faithful is the principle of efficiency quo (proximate principle and wholly spiritual) of the unity of action of the Church; the Christians are the immediate principle of efficiency quod (radical and visible principle) of the unity of action of the Church.

The extrinsic final causes are: (1) the Divinity considered as Last End and Sovereign Good; (2) the humanity of Christ considered as intermediate end, and as the point of concentration of all the faithful. And the intrinsic final cause is the common good of the Church comprising, as mutually ordered integrant parts—according to what St. Thomas says (I, q. 5, a. 5.—cf. the commentary of Cajetan)—the mode or measure, the species or form, the order or inclination to the end: the "mode", that is to say the happy disposition of the extrinsic and intrinsic efficient causes whence issues the soul of the Church; the "species", that is to say the soul of the Church as we have just defined it; the "order", that is to say the inclination which draws the Church towards Christ as Proximate End and towards the Divinity as Last End.



Understood in the intermediate sense the material cause of the Church is the human nature of the Christians, hierarchy and faithful. The formal cause is the unity of spirit, that is to say the unity of action (actus secundus) resulting from unity of soul (actus primus): this soul of the Church still being constituted by the three elements, which here are: (1) the sacramental characters of Baptism, Confirmation and Order; (2) sacramental grace (for the order of exercise); (3) the right orientation ruling the action of the foregoing elements, an orientation considered at once as transmitted by the jurisdictional power and as received with faith and obedience by the faithful (for the order of specification).

The extrinsic efficient causes are: (1) the Divinity considered as First Cause; (2) the humanity of Christ considered as instrumental cause conjoined to the Divinity. And the intrinsic efficient causes are: (1) the hierarchic powers of order and jurisdiction, used by Christ as a "separated instrument" to communicate to the Church the sacramental characters of Baptism, Confirmation (and even Holy Orders); sacramental grace (note here that Baptism, which confers a sacramental character and sacramental grace, has in fact a priest for minister when it is solemn, although non-solemn Baptism can be administered by anyone), and the right immanent orientation ruling the action of the sacramental characters and grace; (2) these same elements—to wit, the sacramental characters of Baptism and Confirmation, sacramental grace and their right immanent orientation—in so far as these three are a proximate disposition (actus primus) to procure the Church's unity of action (actus secundus). The hierarchic powers of order and jurisdiction, and the three elements which they cause in the Church, are the principles of efficiency quo (proximate principles and wholly spiritual) of the unity of action of the Church; the Christians themselves, hierarchy and faithful, are the immediate principles of efficiency quod (radical and visible principles of the unity of action of the Church).

The extrinsic final causes are: (1) the Divinity considered as Last End and Sovereign Good; (2) the humanity of Christ considered as intermediate end and as the point of concentration of the whole Church. And the intrinsic final cause is the intrinsic common good of the whole Church, whose integrant parts are the "mode" , being the happy disposition of the efficient causes whence the soul of the Church results, and the integrity of the material causes in which this soul embodies itself; the "species" being the soul of the Church itself (as we have defined it above) and the "order" being the inclination which draws the Church towards Christ as Intermediate End, and towards the Divinity as Last End.



When the Church is taken in the large sense the extrinsic efficient cause is the Divinity considered as First Cause.

The extrinsic final cause is the Divinity considered as Sovereign Good.

The material cause is the human nature of Christ and of Christians.

Up to that point all is simple. The difficulty begins when we try to define the formal cause and the intrinsic efficient and final causes of the Church.

In my view the Church taken in the large sense has for formal created cause the unity of spirit, that is to say the unity of action (actus secundus) resulting from the unity of soul (actus primus): this created soul of the Church being constituted by three elements: (1) the sacerdotal power of Christ and the triple sacramental character which, in Christians, is a participation of that power; (2) the sanctifying grace dwelling in its fullness in Christ and sacramentally participated by Christians (these two elements concern the order of exercise); (3) the right orientation ruling the two preceding elements when they pass to second act (and this last element concerns the order of specification).

When the created formal cause, the created soul of the Church, has been determined, it is easy to assign the intrinsic efficient and final causes. Cajetan remarks that "the soul rules the body in a threefold order of causality: namely, efficient causality, since it is the cause of the bodily movements of the thing animated; formal causality, since it is the form of the body; and final causality, since the body exists for the soul" (In II-II, q. 60, a. 6; cf. St. Thomas, De Anima, lib. II, lect. 7, no. 318). Thus we shall say that the soul of the Church is a formal cause if considered as giving the Church its being and its unity; an intrinsic efficient cause if considered as the cause of the Church's activity; and an intrinsic final cause if considered as the good to which the body of the Church is ordered. But the intrinsic efficient and final causes of the Church taken in the large sense can be stated more precisely.

The Church has for intrinsic efficient cause: (1) the spiritual virtues of the humanity of Christ which, as instrumental cause "conjoined" to the Divinity, is the head from which the Church receives its supreme movement and direction; (2) the hierarchic powers, that is to say the powers of order and jurisdiction which are, in a strict way as regards the first and in a broader way as regards the second, the "separated" instrumental causes used by the humanity of Christ to communicate to men, a. the sacramental characters of Baptism and Confirmation (and even Order), b. sacramental grace, and c. the right orientation accepted in faith and obedience, ruling the activity of the two former elements; (3) finally these same elements just mentioned, to wit the sacramental characters of Baptism and Confirmation (that of Order is the hierarchic power already cited), sacramental grace and their right immanent orientation, since these three elements are, in effect, in proximate disposition (actus primus) to procure the unity of life and action of the Church (actus secundus). Note that the spiritual virtues which dwell in Christ as Man, and which are participated by the members of the hierarchy, then by the faithful, are a principle of efficiency quo (proximate and wholly spiritual principle) of the Church's unity of action; while Christ Himself, the members of the hierarchy, and the faithful, who act in accordance with the spiritual virtues just mentioned, are a principle of efficiency quod (radical and visible principle) of the Church's unity of action. This last consideration fits in with what St. Thomas says in another connection when he considers the citizens as being the intrinsic efficient cause of the City. In his commentary on Aristotle's Politics St. Thomas calls citizens "those who are eligible for election to deliberative and judicial offices" (lib. III, lect. 1), and he says that "the citizen maxime is he who shares in the honours of the City" (lib. III, lect. 4, no. 382).

The Church's intrinsic final cause is her intrinsic common good, whose mutually ordered integrant parts are the "mode" or "measure"; which means that the intrinsic good of the Church presupposes both the happy disposition of the efficient causes whence comes the soul of the Church, and the integrity of the material causes in which this soul embodies itself; the "species" or the "form", which means that the intrinsic good of the Church demands the presence of the entire soul of the Church; the "order", or "inclination to the end", which means that the intrinsic good of the Church is specially characterized by an inclination, an elan, referring the whole Church to her last Supreme End which is the Divinity.



If we take the Church in the "large" and "intermediate" senses, the hierarchic powers of order and jurisdiction, coming down from the Apostles through an uninterrupted succession, will appear as appertaining to the intrinsic causes of the Church: to the intrinsic efficient cause and to the formal cause. Here apostolicity belongs to the Church ratione formae, as a property resulting from her essence.

If we take the Church in the "restricted" sense, then the hierarchic powers of order and jurisdiction, coming down in uninterrupted succession from the Apostles, will be found to be attached to the extrinsic efficient causes of the Church: they constitute a ministerial efficient cause separated from the Divinity and exterior to the Church. Apostolicity in this case marks the dependence of the Church on this extrinsic efficient cause. It belongs to the Church no longer ratione formae but ratione causalitatis.


[The Power Of Order Considered As Ministerial Cause Of The Church]

In this chapter we shall discuss the power of order, which, along with that of jurisdiction, is one of the two powers of the apostolic body, and plays an essential and even preponderant part in the causation of the Church in the world.

But the power of order is merely the highest realization, reserved to the hierarchy, of a more general and very mysterious power, the sacramental power [pouvoir cultuel], whose two lower realizations, the one conferred by the sacrament of Baptism and the other by the sacrament of Confirmation, are the common heritage of all the faithful, and put their stamp upon and inwardly penetrate the whole life of the Church as she now is.[108]

We cannot define this sacramental power without first treating of the Christian cultus itself, to which the power is essentially related, and in function of which the definition must be framed.


The Christian cultus is the cultus of the New Law. It succeeds the merely figurative cultus of the Old Law. It announces and prepares the life of glory in which all truth will be openly and perfectly unveiled, where neither the offering of sacrifice nor the reception of sacraments, nor the exercise of what St. Thomas calls succinctly the exterior cultus, will have any further reason to exist. This Christian cultus is no longer pure figure, nor, as yet, is it pure reality: it is reality, but under a veil of figures.[109] Founded by Christ, it is continued in the Church.

1. The Institution Of The Christian Cultus By Christ The Priest

When the Word of God—with a view to establishing a new world better than the world of innocence, a second reign of mercy, a second Kingdom of God more perfect than the first [110]—united Himself personally to a human nature destined to be the principle of the regenerated creation, the living bond between heaven and earth, He conferred on this human nature the created gifts of a double unction, a double consecration and sanctification, in the order of cultus and in the order of grace. So that Christ, as Man, was on the one hand constituted Ruler and Head of a supreme cultus, foretold for the last age of the world, a cultus in which those effectively participate who are incorporated in Him as His members by the reception of the sacramental character, which is a sacramental and sacerdotal power; and, on the other hand, was constituted Ruler and Head of a supreme outpouring of sanctity and love, in which those fully participate who are incorporated in Him as His members by grace received in all its sacramental perfection.[111]

It is of Christ as Ruler, Head, and Founder of a new cultus that we have to speak here. He appeared on the threshold of the last age of the world as the High Priest designated by God: "For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in the things that appertain to God. . . Neither doth any man take the honour to himself but he that is called by God, as Aaron was. So Christ also did not glorify himself that he might be made a high priest: but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son; this day I have begotten thee. As he saith also in another place: Thou art a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedech" (Heb. v. I, 4-6). He came not only to abrogate the weak and temporary priesthood of the Old Law, but to set up the perfect and definitive priesthood in its place: "the others indeed were made priests without an oath", by way of carnal generation, "but this with an oath, by him that said unto him: The Lord hath sworn, and he will not repent, thou art a priest for ever" (vii. 21); the others succeed each other "because by reason of death they were not suffered to continue: but this, for that he continueth for ever, hath an everlasting priesthood" (vii. 23-25); the others would offer the blood of goats and oxen with a view to a carnal purification, but He would offer His own Blood to obtain eternal redemption (ix. 11-14); the others would offer daily the same sacrifices which can never take away sins, but He offers but one sacrifice for sins and "by one oblation he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (x. 11-14). In this priesthood, in this cultus, in this unique sacrifice, all that was legitimate in the priesthood, the cultus and the sacrifice of the Old Law—and before that of the law of nature—finds its meaning, its justification and its fulfilment. The entire cultus of earlier ages had in fact no validity save in so far as it announced and prepared, obscurely enough no doubt, the cultus, the worship, that Christ was one day to offer. That is why this supreme cultus, this supreme worship, which by a mysterious anticipation had been the centre of gravity of prior cults and the ground of their efficacy, would one day efface them altogether, and remain alone valid, alone legitimate, alone capable of bringing remission of sins, to the exclusion of every other oblation, for "where there is a remission of these there is no more an oblation for sin" (x. 18). It follows furthermore that the efficacy of this supreme cultus, this decisive oblation, is to be passed on from age to age till the end of all the ages; that all later sinful generations will need its purifying virtue, and that those who, victims as they are of collective and invincible error, fail to recognize its nature or its perpetuity in time are indebted to it nevertheless for all that is best in them, for their good faith and for the uprightness of their hearts.

A. The Double Movement Of The Christian Cultus

Because He was Man as we are, save for sin, and because His human nature subsisted in a divine Person, Christ, considered in His humanity, occupies a mid-position between the people and God. He is therefore qualified to act as the bridge between heaven and earth, as the Pontiff and Mediator, transmitting the prayers that go up from man and the benefits that come down from God—the Priest par excellence who, on the threshold of the New Covenant, was to give the world to God and God to the world.[112]

1. The Ascendant Mediation Of The Cultus: The Sacrificial Offering

1. The act by which Christ offered prayers and satisfactions to God for men was certainly, first of all, a meritorious act. For in the first place His human nature subsisted in the Person of the Word of God; and in virtue of this "grace of union" which conferred on all His least acts, however intrinsically natural, an infinite dignity, He was marked out to be the Intercessor and Advocate of all men.[113] The grace of union, furthermore, called for the presence of "habitual grace" in Christ's soul, a grace that would superelevate all His human activity, make it intrinsically supernatural, proportion it inwardly to obtain corporeal glory for Himself and, in virtue of a providential disposition, the spiritual salvation of all who would not refuse to enter into union with Him as His members.[114] Christ's intercession thus merited the salvation of the world.

2. But the act by which Our Lord interceded for men was not simply any meritorious act; it was a sacrificial act, an act of the exterior cultus, one in which we find, present in a supereminent way, the four ends of sacrifice: adoration, propitiation, thanksgiving and impetration.

When the hour came for Christ to consummate His intercession on the cross, His death was something greater than any martyrdom, even the most heroic. Scripture represents it as an offering, as a sacrifice: "Christ. . . hath loved us and hath delivered himself for us, an oblation and a sacrifice to God for an odour of sweetness" (Eph. v. 2); as an incomparable voluntary [115] sacrifice, prefigured by the sacrifices of the Old Testament but destined to replace them for ever on account of its divine efficacy: "neither by the blood of goats or of calves, but by his own blood Christ entered once into the Holies, having obtained eternal redemption" (Heb. ix. I 2). He entered "into heaven itself, that he may appear now in the presence of God for us. Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the Holies every year with the blood of others, for then he ought to have suffered often from the beginning of the world: but now, once, at the end of the ages, he hath appeared for the destruction of sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Heb. ix. 24-26).

Jesus then wished once and for all to merit eternal life and the reconciliation and renewal of the world by a sacrificial act, [116] that is to say by an exterior act, a rite significative in itself of the "latreutic" homage, the homage of adoration, due to God alone—the generic end of all sacrifice being the homage of adoration.[117] This exterior rite, this latreutic homage of the New Testament, was appointed and defined in advance by a decree of God the Father, to which Jesus voluntarily submitted Himself: "Thinkest thou that I cannot ask my Father, and he will give me presently more than twelve legions of angels? How then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that so it must be done?" (Matt. xxvi. 53). "Therefore doth the Father love me: because I lay down my life that I may take it again. No man taketh it away from me: but I lay it down of myself. And I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. This commandment have I received of my Father" (John x. 17-18). That is why Scripture presents the death of Our Lord as a work of obedience: "For as by the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners: so also by the obedience of one, many shall be made just" (Rom. v. 19); and again: "He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross", (Phil. ii. 8).

This sacrificial act, by which Christ glorified His Father and merited eternal life for us, contained in an eminent way the virtue of all the sacrifices of the Old Law. It was not only more latreutic than the holocaust, but also more propitiatory, more eucharistic, more impetrative than the old sin-offerings and peace-offerings.[118]

There is a sense in which it can be said that Christ's sacrifice was primarily propitiatory, a sacrifice for our sins, since it would never have been offered if man had not sinned. Its first purpose was to offer to God on behalf of man something for which God's love was greater than His offence at sin. The Passion of Christ on that account might be called reparatory, redemptive, satisfactory, propitiatory for sins, reconciliatory. "You were not redeemed with corruptible things, as gold or silver, from your vain conversation of the tradition of your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled" (1 Pet. i. 18-19): "And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only but for those of the whole world" (1 John 11. 2). His voluntary sacrifice has the power of appeasing God for all sins and of reconciling Him with the world: "we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son" (Rom. v. 10); "For God indeed was in Christ reconciling the world to himself" (2 Cor. v. 19). It pleased God "to reconcile all things unto himself, making peace through the blood of his cross" (Col. i. 20). That is what we mean in the first place when we say that Christ is the Redeemer.[119]

The sacrifice of the cross is likewise a supreme eucharistia, a supreme thanksgiving for benefits already received; and that is why, when He instituted its memorial, Jesus gave thanks over, eucharistized, the bread and the wine (Luke xxii. 19; Matt. xvi. 27).

Finally, it is a supreme petition, a supreme impetration. Impetratory efficacy, like meritorious efficacy, supposes a preordination by which God decides to attach certain favours to certain actions. But whereas a meritorious act, stamped as it is with love, is in a measure proportionate to the thing it looks for in return, a petition, as such, appeals to nothing but pure mercy. Now Christ's sacrifice was not only meritorious but also impetratory; as it says in Hebrews v. 7: "Who in the days of his flesh, with a strong cry and tears offering up prayers and Supplications to him that was able to save him from death, was heard for his reverence."

Thus it was by a meritorious intercession, but expressed in a sacrifice at once latreutic, eucharistic, impetratory, and propitiatory, that Christ offered the world to God.

3. In his third Jentaculum, written at Poznan in 1524, on the priesthood, Cardinal Cajetan noted how, unlike simple martyrdom which is a sacrifice only in the metaphorical or spiritual sense, the death of Our Lord is a sacrifice properly so called. It has been suggested, he says, that the martyr who offers himself at the stake or to other tortures, as on an altar, is himself truly and properly a priest. And, if so, our argumentation collapses; for if the virtue of the voluntary martyr suffices to realize priesthood properly so-called, we should apparently be entitled to call everyone a priest who makes an offering of his bodily pains, and so forth.

"We reply that there is a capital difference on this point between Christ and the martyrs; as sufficiently appears from the following three considerations:

"a. As to the sacrificial principle itself: Christ offered Himself in virtue of His public sacerdotal function, having been made Priest for this same sacrifice; which can be said of none other. For no one is made priest that he may offer himself in sacrifice. Men were made priests under the Old Law to offer calves and lambs, and under the New to offer the Body and Blood of Our Lord. Whereas Our Lord Jesus Christ, taken from amongst men by God the Father, was made Priest on man's behalf to offer Himself to death on the altar of the cross, as St. Paul explains in the Epistle to the Hebrews.

"b. As to the oblation: Christ's oblation was, of its nature, voluntary Christ died, in other words, because He willed it, and not with Hi divine will only but with His human will, not simply as accepting a fact but as producing an effect. For since His soul already rejoiced in glory it was within His power to prevent this corporeal death; but He did no will to prevent it. An altogether unique significance thus attaches to the idea of the voluntary in the text of Isaias: "He was offered because it was his own will"[liii. 7]. Our Lord Himself says: "I lay down my life that I may take it again. No man taketh it away from me: but I lay it down of myself. "And He adds explicitly: "I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again"[John x. 18]. The oblation of the other martyrs, on the contrary, was not in itself voluntary: it was not in their power to die or not to die, but only, in certain cases, to choose some of the circumstances of their death (place, time or manner). Their offering was voluntary only in its mode of acceptance: in the sense that they accepted death for the honour of God, making, in some sort, a virtue of necessity.

"c. As to the thing offered. The Blood of Christ has power of its own nature to reconcile and satisfy for others, and even for all others (cf. I John ii. 2), whereas the blood of the martyrs was meritorious only for themselves.

"Thus the sacrifice of Christ on the cross is one thing, but the sacrifice made by the death of a martyr is quite another. In offering Himself, Christ was really and properly a Priest. The martyrs are priests only in the derivative sense of the word, the sense in which it designates a virtue."

2. The Descendent Mediation Of The Cultus: The Instrumental Causality Of The Passion

Christ furthermore gave divine things to the world, being fully qualified to do so. His human nature, which subsisted in the Person of the Word, was consecrated and sanctified simply by its union with the Divinity; and it was also the subject of habitual grace so rich that it might be called infinite. For these two reasons it could be the lucid, loving and sensitive instrument by which the divine benefactions were to be poured out into the depths of souls. St. Paul declares that Jesus is the Head of the body of the Church (Eph. i. 22); that it pleased God that all fullness should dwell in him (Col. i. 19). St. John too presents Him as one who is "full of grace and truth", "and of his fullness we have all received, and grace for grace" (John i. 14, 16), and as the vine by which the branches bear their fruit (xv. 4). If it be true that it was at the supreme moment of His death on the cross that Jesus conferred the highest divine favours on the world, we must recognize this death as the instrumental cause of our salvation. By reason of the divine virtue that passed into it, it became an inexhaustible source of grace for all the world, capable of purging away all sins, past, present or to come. It remains only to enter into contact with it by faith, at least implicit, and by the sacraments of the faith.[120]

B. The Liturgical Character Of The Christian Religion

It follows that a cultus, a liturgy, a ministry, is at the heart of Christianity. "Having therefore a great high priest that hath passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God: let us hold fast our confession" (Heb. iv. 14). "We have such a high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of majesty in the heavens, a minister [leitourgos] of the holies, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord hath pitched, not man" (viii. I-2). "But now he hath obtained a better ministry, by how much also he is a mediator of a better testament" (viii. 6). "Then said I: Behold I come to do thy will, O God: he taketh away the first that he may establish that which followeth. In the which will we are sanctified by the oblation of the body of Jesus Christ once. And every priest indeed standeth daily ministering, and often offering the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this man offering one sacrifice for sins, for ever sitteth on the right hand of God. . . For by one oblation he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. . . Now where there is a remission of these, there is no more oblation for sin" (x. 9-18).

God and the world could of course have been reconciled in many various ways; but what do these texts mean if not that in fact the reconciliation was accomplished in a ritual drama in which Jesus offered His life to God and communicated grace to men? Our salvation is the fruit of the noblest of all acts of love, which because it came from a Man and was to be a rallying-point for men, expressed itself in a visible sacrifice, preordained by God from all eternity. A liturgy, ascending and descending, is at the root of the Christian religion. It constitutes as it were its framework. It cannot be detached from it—not at any rate without tearing Scripture to bits and changing Christianity into something else.[121] The Priest of this liturgy is Christ. "Although He is priest not as God but as man, He who is priest and who is God is but one and the same Being."[122] And if the priest is a mediator consecrated to send up the prayers of the people to God, and to bring the favours of God down on the people, it is clear that no one ever was or ever will be a priest like Christ, "a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech"[123] and "mediator of the New Testament".

I shall have occasion to point out later that, as Man once more, Our Lord is also King. God, Priest, King: all these characters are conjoined in the opening vision of the Apocalypse: the white hair of one "like to the Son of Man", signifying His pre-existence and eternity; the long tunic, signifying His priesthood; the golden girdle, His royalty. His divinity is incommunicable. But His priesthood, His kingship and His grace overflow on to the Church which is His Body.

C. The Church Constituted By A Triple Incorporation With Christ

Just as God, wishing His own creatures to bear some likeness to Himself has given them not only being but also activity, making them (in dependence on Himself as First Cause) true causes in their turn; so Christ, coming to take up the work of creation and make all things new among men, gave them not only the power of entering into union with Him, but also the power of acting in Him, of becoming (in total dependence on Himself) true causes themselves, offering the world to God with Him and likewise with Him giving God to the world. Nothing could be more wonderful than the confidence God thus shows in His creatures, making them co-operators with His own providence and with Christ's redemption. "For we," says St. Paul, "are God's coadjutors" (1 Cor. iii. 9). And having recalled that God has reconciled us to Himself by Christ's mediation—that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself—he adds that this same God has given him—i. e. Paul—the "ministry of reconciliation" and has placed in him "the word of reconciliation"; so that, as he goes on, "we are ambassadors for Christ. God as it were exhorting by us" (2 Cor. v. 18-20).

The Spirit of God, the Divinity whole and entire, descended at the instant of the Incarnation on the humanity of Christ, the Anointed, like an unction. He consecrated, sanctified and spiritualized Him in two ways. First by making Him the Head, the Ruler, the High Priest of a supreme cultus in which heaven and earth should meet: there we have the sacramental or sacerdotal consecration, sanctification, spiritualization. Then, by making Him the Head, the Source, of the supreme outpouring of sanctity reserved for the last age of the world: there we have the consecration, sanctification spiritualization of grace and of charity. Christ received these two consecrations, these two sanctifications, these two spiritualizations, as Head and Chief of a restored humanity: the first consecrated Him as Priest, the second as Sanctifier or as Saviour.[124] Both are to overflow from Him upon all those who become His members and form His Body, as the nervous impulses start from the head to move the whole body. Something parallel may be noted in the case of the third communicable privilege of Christ, His spiritual kingship over minds in the speculative and practical orders; which is to be poured out on men by means of the jurisdictional power.

The Church thus appears as an extension to men of the communicable privileges of Christ. Taken in her fullness and perfection she results from a triple incorporation of men into Christ their Head by way of influx into them of something of His priesthood, something of His grace, and something of His truth. She participates in the privileges of Christ the Priest, Christ the Sanctifier or Saviour, and Christ the King. Her mission will not be simply to recall memories, however great and divine they may be, but really and efficaciously to continue through space and time the first initiative taken by Christ in inaugurating on the threshold of the last age a new cultus, communicating a grace that of itself looks to the redemption of the whole world, and openly and authoritatively proclaiming the message of deliverance to human minds.

Let us now return to the first of these incorporations with Christ, that effected by the sacerdotal or sacramental power.

D. Incorporation With Christ The Priest

All those on whom the consecration, the sacerdotal sanctification of Christ, is bestowed, are consecrated and sanctified in His likeness in the line of the cultus or sacerdotium.[125] They will be incorporated with Christ the Priest. Something of the inalienable spiritual power which made of Christ the unique Priest will pass into them along with the sacramental power or character of Baptism, Confirmation and Order; spiritualizing them, making them the ministers, the instruments, the co-operators of the one sole eternal Priest. They will be admitted to participation in the cultus offered once by the unique Priest, but availing for all ages. One after the other they will be called to enter into the current of the ascendant mediation; to offer to God, by Him, with Him, and in Him, all the men of their generation. And similarly they will be called to enter the current of the descending mediation, so that by Him, with Him, and in Him they may give God to all men of their generation.

All down the course of history, then, there will be men incorporated with Christ the Priest, participating in the spiritual unction of His inalienable and sovereign priesthood, drawn in the wake of His divine liturgy. The mediating priestly action of the Head will be transmitted and diffused throughout the body. Fully achieved once and for all where Christ Himself is concerned, it remains unfulfilled with respect to those who, being His members, have to continue to work down the ages, by Him, with Him, and in Him, for the salvation of the world. It was carried out in the Head at the origination of the New Covenant, but so that it might reverberate through the body throughout history. It entered time in order to remain always really present, as opposed to being caught up out of it at once, leaving only a memory, however divine. An efficacious presence through the ages, no mere memory—that is the mystery of the essential priesthood of the Head, sustaining the purely ministerial priesthood of the members, and of the body which is the Church. The Church will not exist in its fullness save there where the priesthood of Christ and the Christian cultus continue still to operate.

But since it brings us the presence of the Mediator "who gave himself a redemption for all" (1 Tim. ii. 6), this visible cultus is not offered solely for those who belong visibly and completely to the Church. It is offered also for those who belong to her invisibly and incompletely. Indeed, it is offered for all men: for, says St. Paul, it is good and acceptable to God our Saviour "who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth", that "Supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all men" (1 Tim. ii. 1 and 4).

Consequently, we have to recognize two categories of the saved. The first, invested with the sacramental characters, are able to participate in the very exercise of the redemptive cultus; the others, lacking the sacramental characters, can participate only in the satisfactory effects of the Christian cultus, and that in a measure inevitably incomplete. The first are saved inasmuch as, united to Christ, they continue to offer the redemptive sacrifice for all men of their generation; the second are saved inasmuch as the redemptive sacrifice continues to be offered for them by Christ and the Christians of their generation. The first are borne up by Christ that they may bear others up; they are full members of Christ; they, with Him, and as incorporated with Him as Priest, [126] are members who redeem and save. The second are borne up by Christ and by the first sort of members; they are members of Christ incompletely, they can only be redeemed and be saved.

2. The Continuation Of The Christian Cultus In The Church

The Christian cultus, initiated by Christ, is continued in the Church in all its essentials, in two ways: by the bloodless sacrifice and by the sacraments.

A. The Bloodless Sacrifice

1. When He appeared as "the high priest of the good things to come" Christ made "the oblation of his body once" and "obtained eternal redemption" (Heb. ix. II, 12; X. 10). It was in the predestined offering of a moment that the eternal God, and the still unended succession of ages, were reconciled. The blood-stained cross remains planted for ever at the centre of the true religion. It brings fresh vitality to dying souls, dispenses life, softens the hardness of hearts: in that day, said Jahve by His prophet, "I will pour out on the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of prayers, and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced. And they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for an only son." It purifies from sin: "In that day there shall be a fountain open to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem: for the washing of the sinner" (Zach. xii. 10; xiii. I). It must be made present everywhere.

"Lord, if you had been here, my brother had not died." Christ did not deny it. He had indeed said something of the same sort to the disciples: "Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe." But when the two sisters came to Him one after the other, when Mary was at His feet and "when he saw her weeping, and the Jews that were come with her weeping", then "He groaned in the spirit, and troubled himself, and said: Where have you laid him?" (John xi). There are Supplications that can be resisted at a distance, but not face to face. Martha and Mary knew it, and God knows it too. That, precisely, is why the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. And that too is why, having been lifted up on the cross to draw all men to Himself, He desired that the cross itself should continue present, not distant, carried down on the flow of time. Having therefore delayed until the supreme sacrifice was already beginning, He founded the mysterious institution which was to be its vehicle and to perpetuate its virtue. The liturgy of Maundy Thursday which the disciples were to reproduce "in memory of him" would truly bring to all later generations His Body "given for us", and the Blood "of the New Testament", "shed for us" (Luke xxii. 19-20), "for the remission of sins" (Matt. xxvi. 28). Those who "eat this bread and drink the chalice" show "the death of the Lord" (1 Cor. xi. 26) until He comes to substitute for this repast in which the realities remain veiled under the sacramental signs, the repast in which they become manifest, and in which the faithful will drink the wine of love from the unmixed chalice "in the kingdom of his Father" (Matt. xxvi. 29). In sum, the bloody sacrifice is brought to each one of us by the renewal of the bloodless rite instituted at the Last Supper; round which the Church is gathered and to which she clings.[127]

2. Let us be quite clear about this bloodless rite. It is not substituted for the bloody sacrifice. It is subordinated to it. The bloodless rite of the Mass is a real and true sacrifice because Christ and His sacrifice on the cross are not merely figured there, but also really and truly made present. Just as several consecrated Hosts are by no means several Christs, but several real presences of the one Christ, so, to speak strictly, several Masses do not make several sacrifices, but several true presences of the one sacrifice.[128]

It was to multiply, not the supreme sacrifice, but its presence among men that Our Lord, on the night that He was betrayed, having taken bread and having broken it, saying: "This is my body which shall be delivered for you", added these words reported by St. Paul and St. Luke: "This do for the commemoration of me"; and that having taken also the chalice, saying: "This chalice is the New Testament in my blood", He added, as St. Paul again notes: "This do, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of me."[129]

The bloodless rite of Maundy Thursday therefore not only symbolises the bloody immolation of Good Friday but also places us in the presence of it, and the Church has power to renew it. In place of the bloody rites of Israel she offers a pure oblation, a sacrifice unbloody in its mode, in the sight of the whole world, as already foretold by the prophet Malachias (i. 10-11): "I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of hosts, and I will not receive a gift at your hand. For from the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles; and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation. For my name is great among the Gentiles saith the Lord of hosts." A sacrificial meal, whose incomparable mystery St. Paul was to point out to the Corinthians, is to follow this offering, which is therefore truly a sacrificial offering. When they ate victims offered to idols, the pagans believed themselves to enter into union with the idols; which are nought. When they ate the victims offered to the true God, the children of Israel believed themselves to enter into union with the true God. But now neither the sacrifices of the pagans, nor even those of Israel, are permitted any longer, under pain of provoking the jealousy of the Lord; for now, when they eat the bread and drink the wine of their sacrifice, which are the "Body" and the "Blood" of Christ, Christians do truly drink of the chalice of the Lord and do truly partake of the table of the Lord: "The chalice of benediction which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? And the bread which we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord? For we, being many, are one bread, one body, all that partake of one bread. Behold Israel according to the flesh: are not they that eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?. . . But the things which the heathens sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God. And I would not that you should be made partakers with devils. You cannot drink the chalice of the Lord and the chalice of devils; you cannot be partakers of the table of the Lord, and of the table of devils. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?" (1 Cor. x. 16-22).[130] The redemptive sacrifice—consummated once and for all on the part of the Saviour who is the Head, but not yet so on the part of men who are the members as long as any yet remain to be saved, to be incorporated with the sufferings and death of their Head—continues to work itself out in the Mass, and to incorporate successive generations until the Body of Christ, which is the Church, shall be complete.

3. The virtue of the redemptive sacrifice, thus perpetuated and brought before us in the daily bloodless rite of the Mass, is, in itself, infinite, and capable of remitting all the sins of the whole world.[131] But in fact this infinite purification is participated only in a finite measure, so that it can always increase. In the intercession of Christ, to be sure, and even in that of Our Lady and the saints of heaven, there is more than enough love to save all the sinners on earth, and all the souls in purgatory; but the effects of this sovereign intercession are applied to us only in virtue of a profoundly mysterious dispensation. In part, no doubt, they are bestowed on us directly, immediately, and fill us with prevenient graces. But also to a large extent they are bestowed only in proportion to the zeal and charity of the Church here below God, who has placed His Church in time, takes account of her prayer and her charity when He wills to act on her in time. It has been said: "Just as in a single star there is heat enough to melt all the glaciers on earth, and still we have winters; just as, to make the arm of a lever act, you have to have a fulcrum; so God wills that heaven's interventions in this world are to find a fulcrum on earth. Where is it found? In the saints still wayfaring in this life."[132] And that is why Our Lord prompts the best of His servants continually to offer His bloody passion to the Father for the conversion of the world.[133]

Participation in the redemptive sacrifice is brought about already by prayer, by "faith", or better still by the "sacraments of the faith", notably by the Eucharist. We may say that the devotion with which the whole Church militant unites herself with the redemptive sacrifice in Holy Communion, decides from moment to moment both the extent and the quality of her conquests; and the marvellous expansion of the Church on the morrow of Pentecost may be attributed to the unimaginable fervour of love with which Our Lady and the Apostles communicated. Each Mass is a mine ready to produce an explosion in the Church, and in truth producing an explosion in souls fully open to love. Pere Rabussier, whom I have just quoted, rightly says that "the prayer of the Church glorified owes all its efficacy on earth to someone who receives Communion, and is thus in touch with Calvary and the Cross."[134]

In speaking of the measure in which the redemptive sacrifice is applied to us when placed before us in the bloodless rite of the Mass, we have had to leave for a moment the question of the strict validity of the rites and to enter the higher domain of love and sanctity to which the whole Christian cultus is ordered. We must return now to the cultus itself.

B. The Sacraments

Before ascending to heaven Christ willed to institute certain mysterious rites, which were to signify the multiple riches of redemptive grace, and bring them to each particular man. These are the sacraments of the New Law.

They are, above all, instruments by which the virtue of the Passion of Christ is brought to us; and it was for a sign of this, say the Fathers, that from the wound in Christ's side there flowed water and blood, symbolising the two principal sacraments, Baptism and the Eucharist. This is their highest, but not their sole function. For each sacrament furthermore supposes, both in minister and recipient, certain positive acts of the cultus which depend for the most part both on the sacramental power for their validity and on the virtue of religion for their moral quality. For the moment however we shall consider the sacraments only in their immediate relations with the ontological realities of sacramental grace and of the sacramental power.

Just as the material pencil of a Michelangelo can make the spiritual beauty of a human countenance appear on the paper, so certain very humble visible things—the sacraments—are able in the hands of God to place immaterial realities in the depths of souls. This, to be sure, is not done independently of the dispositions of the subject, dispositions which will always be required (merely negative ones, of course, in the child who has not yet personally sinned, but positive ones in the adult); but it is done in a measure surpassing these dispositions, though in proportion to them, in such a way that he who approaches with two talents will come back with four, and he who has four with eight. Here once more the Gospel words are verified: "In what measure you shall mete it shall be measured to you again, and more shall be given to you. For he that hath, to him shall be given; and he that hath not, that also which he hath shall be taken away from him" (Mark iv. 24-25).

That Christ's redemption comes to us through the sacraments of the New Law is a mystery expressly noted in Scripture, for example, in connection with Baptism: "Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John iii. 5). "For we that are dead to sin, how shall we live any longer therein? Know ye not that all we, who are baptized in Christ Jesus are baptized in his death?" (Rom. vi. 2-3). God the Father has saved us "by the laver of regeneration [palingenesis] and renovation of the Holy Ghost, whom he hath poured forth upon us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour" (Tit. iii. 5, 6). And St. Augustine asks, in a formula which has become traditional: "Whence has the water such virtue that it touches the body and cleanses the heart?"[135]

Interior regeneration, the life of the spirit, purity of heart, in a word, sanctifying grace—that is the chief effect of the sacraments of the New Law. And doubtless the sanctifying omnipotence of God is not circumscribed by the sacraments (potentia Dei sacramentis visibilibus non alligatur); it overflows them in every direction and carries the gift of the Holy Spirit all over the world. It is none the less true that these sacraments are the normal and privileged means of sanctifying grace.[136] In passing through them it acquires in some sort those singularly rich virtues on account of which we call it sacramental grace. It receives the power of producing certain special effects characteristic of the Christian life, "ordinantur. . . sacramenta ad quosdam speciales effectus necessarios in vita christiana."[137] From this it results that the Mystical Body of Christ will be faithfully reproduced in space and time. Thus to simple sanctifying grace, sacramental grace adds a new divine aid, a particular perfection. Sacramental grace is, as it were, a richer and more immediate participation of the communicable sanctity of Christ. Thence comes to the Church all that is most consummate in her sanctity, all that is most inward of her beauty, all that is closest to perfection in her likeness to Christ.

With the power to perpetuate the redemptive sacrifice of Christ which brings to each generation the whole undivided virtue of the Passion, the Church has thus the power to dispense its multiple effects to each particular man by the sacraments of the New Law. Thus is fulfilled the cultus in spirit and in truth.[138]

3. The Sacramental Power Common To All Christians, And The Sacramental Power Of The Hierarchy

If Christ had to be consecrated as High Priest to inaugurate the cultus of the New Law, something of His consecration will have to be communicated to those whose duty it will be, as His ministers, to continue this cultus through all time for the salvation of all men.

The consecration left by Christ to His ministers, the diminished imprint of His sacerdotal or liturgical power, is constituted by what are commonly called the sacramental powers or characters. There are three of them. But from the standpoint of the treatise on the Church they will have to be put into two groups.

In the one group we shall put the two sacramental powers which in themselves are common to all the members of the Church, namely the power or character of Baptism, and the power or character of Confirmation (Section II). In the other we shall put the power or character of Order which belongs exclusively to the hierarchy, and comprises several degrees (Section III).



1. The Existence Of A Sacramental Power

All who would be saved must, in some way or other, be in touch with the divine liturgy of redemption. When, even invincibly (and so non-culpably), they know nothing of it or misconceive it, they must still, if they are to be saved, be in accord with it in their innermost desire, that is to say by living faith—buried, it may be, in the ashes of their hearts—without which "it is impossible to please God" (Heb. xi. 6).

But an attachment by desire alone to the liturgy of redemption, although it may be enough to make them partake initially and in a measure of the final effect of the Christian cultus—that is to say of redemptive grace—does not enable them to participate in the exercise of the cultus, which nevertheless, by Christ's will, is to be perpetuated in time. A new spiritualization, a new and original power will therefore be needed in those who validly exercise this cultus. We will call it the sacramental power (pouvoir cultuel).

Christ is the principal cause of the Christian cultus, and men are the instruments He uses to perpetuate it on earth. But in this case, as St. Thomas remarks, "the instrument must needs be proportionate to the agent", [139] so that the spiritual virtue of Christ the Priest must here descend on His ministers and be shared by them. Hence the sacramental power.

A traditional, immemorial and constant usage, whose roots appear in Scripture itself, shows us that believers, even if saints, cannot all indifferently and validly pronounce the eucharistic words over the bread and wine, nor impose their hands on the baptized; nor can all indifferently be admitted to the Eucharist or the other sacraments: "Let none eat and drink of your eucharist save only those who are baptized in the name of the Lord", as it says, for example, in the Didache (ix. 5). Hence it appears that the essential acts of the Christian cultus presuppose in those who carry them out (save for the reception and even for the conferring of Baptism) a power in whose absence they will be invalid and ineffective.

This power is not to be had by simply desiring to participate in the Christian cultus. It comes from the effective reception of certain sacraments, and that is why it can be called the sacramental power, the sacramental character, the sacramental sign. It consists in a "sacring", in a consecration. Although all the sacraments sanctify, first of all in the primary and chief sense that they confer grace, which purifies from sin, three sacraments, namely Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Order, sanctify further in this second sense, that they confer a sacramental power, a consecration, a spiritualization, which enables the recipient effectively to carry out the acts of the Christian cultus, summed up in the sacrifice to be offered and in the sacraments to be received or dispensed.[140] Of these three consecrations the baptismal consecration is the only one which can be conferred, if need be, by a minister who does not yet possess it himself. The other two sacramental consecrations cannot be transmitted save by a minister who already possesses them, so that the sacramental power comes down to us from Christ and the Apostles through a strict continuity of transmission which cannot suffer the least interruption without being irretrievably lost.

2. The Nature Of The Sacramental Power

Because He subsisted in the divine Person of the Word, and because His soul was filled with all the powers needed to save the world, Christ was consecrated to institute the Christian cultus and to prescribe the manner in which this cultus, henceforward alone pleasing to God, should be perpetuated. All those who possess, in any degree whatsoever, the power to continue the Christian cultus, participate directly in the sacerdotal consecration of Christ. The simple sacramental power given at Baptism is already enough to incorporate us with Christ, Chief and Head of the Christian cultus, and makes us members, ministerial organs, living, free and spiritual instruments of it. It associates us initially with the sacerdotal work of Christ, and engenders us to the Christian religion, to the Christian liturgy.[141]

The sacramental power, like grace, is an invisible, [142] spiritual and supernatural reality. It is, however, distinct from grace. The latter perfects man immediately on the moral plane of personal sanctification, "in ordine ad sancte agendum"; the sacramental power perfects man immediately in view of the valid exercise of the Christian cultus, "in ordine ad valide operandum". And although the Christian cultus is itself ordered to the production of grace as to its ultimate effect, it remains true that its valid exercise is one thing and its ultimate effect another, and that this latter will sometimes be hindered by human perversity.

The sacramental power, unlike grace, can never be lost once given; and that is why the sacraments that confer it cannot be repeated. St. Augustine notes the fact in connection with the consecrations given by Baptism and Order. In the deserter who returns to the ranks, he says, the soldiership persists and only needs to be recognized; and so in the apostate who returns to the Church the baptismal character is still there and does not have to be given again.[143]

Holy things claim holy usage, and the use of the sacramental power in a state of sin is a sacrilege; but remains valid. It may be said of this power on the supernatural plane, as of the powers of intelligence and will on the natural plane, that though God has given them us so that we may use them well, they are still retained by those who use them to their own perdition. That is why St. Thomas said that the sacramental or sacerdotal power is, on the supernatural plane, in the position of a "power", a faculty, which can be put to good or ill use; whereas grace and the virtues are "habitus" which cannot be used save well.

3. The General Effects Of The Sacramental Power

1. It is entirely due to the sacramental or sacerdotal power that the Christian cultus continues down the ages. It is by its means that the redemptive sacrifice is made present to each generation, and that redemptive grace is brought to each individual man in the sacraments—Baptism being the only exception, since it does not absolutely demand a consecrated minister.

If therefore the sacramental power ceased to be handed down in a given region and if even Baptism ceased to be conferred there [144] the Christian cultus would there perish. The redemptive sacrifice would no longer be made really present day by day, grace would no longer possess its sacramental perfection; the very notion of sacramentality would be forgotten. Incorporation with Christ as Head of the Christian cultus would disappear.

Even incorporation with Christ as Head of Christian grace and sanctity would become not only more difficult and less frequent, but would be deprived of its most admirable effects. It would be like a tree uprooted from its native soil and climate, and unable to bring its fruits to maturity. Among the best men, living in good faith and in love, true Christianity would be as it were a distant home country, still invincibly unknown or misconceived, towards which nevertheless their hearts would be really orientated, unknown to themselves.

2. The sacramental power or character occupies an important place in the sacramental economy. "When we call it sacramental", writes Scheeben, "that is not simply because it is conferred by certain sacraments, but also because, in the case of those sacraments that confer it, it is the centre of their efficacy and their significance, and in the case of the others it is the basis and ground of all their activity."[145] Let us consider these two assertions.

a. The character is the centre of the efficacy of the sacraments that confer it.

Though it is a secondary effect of the sacraments, the character makes us members of the Christian religion and ministers of the Christian cultus; thus it introduces us into the family of Christ and incorporates us with Christ as Ruler and Head of the cultus of the New Testament. It constitutes in consequence a "moral "title, a right to grace—i. e. to the chief effect of the sacraments—provided no obstacle is opposed by bad dispositions in the subject. The character, says St. Thomas, "disposes the soul directly and proximately to the fulfilling of things pertaining to divine worship: and because such things cannot be accomplished suitably without the help of grace—since, according to John iv. 24 they that adore God must adore Him in spirit and in truth—the divine bounty, by way of consequence, offers grace to those who receive the character, so that they may accomplish worthily the service to which they are deputed."[146] It may thus be said that incorporation with Christ by the character calls, as of right, for another, more intimate incorporation, deeper and more divine; namely incorporation with Christ by sacramental grace and charity. It may be added that if it is a title to Christian grace, the character is at the same time a title to Christian suffering. Pere F. Florand expresses surprise at the absence of this view in Chardon's Croix de Jesus. We know, he says, that "our Christian stamp is two-fold. There is first of all that of grace which is vital and living, since grace makes us act of ourselves, personally, as principal causes: in grace we are so many living Christs. But there is also another stamp which comes of the character conferred by certain sacraments. Doubtless this character is not a vital principle in us and does not make us proper and principal causes of the sacerdotal efficacy of the acts we perform; in this respect we are no more than animated instruments, ministers. It is none the less true that, being added to grace, it strengthens our Christianity, and that too in the sense of the cross, since it is a certain participation of the priesthood of Christ which is inseparable from the cross. . . If therefore it be granted that the Christian stamp that comes of grace demands the cross more directly because it brings us more immediately into the very life of the Crucified, it must also be recognized that the Christian stamp that comes of the sacramental character constitutes, on another plane, a new call for suffering. It fully achieves our entry into Christ by achieving our introduction into the redemptive plan which is also, in fact, a plan of reparation and of sanctification by the cross. Thus the baptized, the confirmed, and the ordained are all of them orientated by their character towards the cross. It is true that our sufferings in this category will be chiefly exterior trials, humiliations and persecutions; but trials and crosses all the same. There is nothing more astonishing than the astonishment of one baptized or confirmed or ordained when he finds himself faced with new sufferings. It is their absence that would be monstrous."[147]

But the character does not merely create a title, a right, to the investiture of the soul with sacramental grace and Christian suffering. It plays an organic, a "physical" part in the production of grace. Scheeben holds that at the first appearance of sacramental grace the character is, conjointly with the sacrament, the instrumental and ministerial cause of the grace: that at the moment when the pure sacramental sign ("sacramentum tantum") of Baptism, Confirmation and Order is outwardly conferred, the character is produced in the subject as a first effect of the sacrament, [148] and in that very instant unites itself with the pure sacrament so as to be, with it, the physical instrumental cause of grace—grace being the ultimate and principal effect of the sacrament (res tantum). To argue thus does not amount to a denial that grace is the principal effect of the sacrament, or to a return to the early theory of St. Thomas, abandoned in the Summa, according to which the sacrament would produce only a disposition calling for grace but would remain incapable of physically and directly causing grace itself. In favour of Scheeben's view we might cite the text of the Summa in which St. Thomas, distinguishing, in the case of Penance, the "sacramentum", the "res et sacramentum" and the "res", declares that "primum totum simul sumptum est causa secundi; primum autem et secundum sunt quodammodo causa tertii."[149] However it be, the Thomist theologians admit that at the reviviscence of sacramental grace, the character is utilised by the divine omnipotence as a physical instrumental cause of grace.[150]

b. The sacraments which confer no sacramental character—namely the Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, and Matrimony—are nevertheless closely connected with the characters. Not only is their reception invalid for subjects not incorporated with Christ by the baptismal character [151]; but the grace which they communicate is not any grace whatsoever, but a grace proportioned to the dignity of a member of Christ, and drawing thence its fundamental significance.

3. On the subject of the causality of the sacramental power as regards redemptive grace, we have noted that if the direct and immediate end of this power is to dispose the soul to valid exercise of the acts of the Christian cultus, its consequence nevertheless is, in virtue of the divine liberality, to draw down into the soul the grace needed for the holy exercise of the cultus. It would therefore be doing violence to God's established order, and moreover committing a sacrilege if, when receiving the power, we were to put an obstacle in the way of grace—by bad dispositions. It is sacrilegious to confer a sacrament unworthily—and we know that the priest is not the sole minister of the sacraments: the spouses are the ministers in the case of Matrimony, and anybody, in case of necessity, can confer Baptism.[152] But even if the minister is unworthy, the use of the power can remain valid: the sacrifice can be validly perpetuated for the salvation of those who desire to be united with it; the sacraments can be validly and, if received with the required dispositions, fruitfully conferred. The reason for this mystery is that the action of the minister and the sacramental rite taken together have only an instrumental part to play in conferring redemptive grace. It is not the sanctity of the minister, but the sanctity of Christ that appears in the world with the sacramental rite, and comes to those who desire to receive it. Baptism administered by heretics, writes St. Augustine, will therefore be valid: "All say this, and I too say it: it is by no means only the just that can be ministers of this Judge [who is Jesus. . . ]. A proud minister is a devil; but the gift of Christ that comes through him is not contaminated, it runs pure, it passes untouched to the fertile earth. This minister is made of stone, and the water that moistens him will never make him bear fruit; but the water passes through the runway of stone, it passes to the garden grass. In the stone runway it vivifies nothing, but in the gardens it gives fertility. The spiritual virtue of the sacrament is like light: on those on whom it falls it falls pure, and is in no way fouled by passing through foul things. . . . What Paul gives, what Peter gives, are the good things of Christ; even were Judas to give them, they are the good things of Christ."[153] The Christian cultus, its rites, its ministers, are nothing more, but also they are nothing less, than the vehicles of redemption.

And that is why, over and above its immediate effects—the uninterrupted exercise of the Christian cultus and the visible transmission of redemption to each successive generation—the sacramental power will draw unending sanctities in its train, not only for those who approach it with lively faith and purified heart, but even for those who know nothing of it, misconceive it, or even set themselves against it.

4. The Sacramental Power Of The Baptized And The Confirmed

The sacramental or sacerdotal power of the Church is disposed in degrees: the power of the baptized, that of the confirmed, and lastly the successive degrees of the power of order with which the hierarchy begins; crowned, in the line of order, by the episcopal power.

1. The validity of Baptism does not require that those who confer it should themselves be consecrated. But this sacrament stamps the first of the Christian consecrations on the soul. If the baptized, as St. Paul declares, is incorporated with Christ, if he is associated with Christ on the cross as closely as a branch with its parent trunk (Rom. vi. 1-11), this is for two reasons. The first, and of course the better, is that he dies to sin and is born to the supernatural life of grace; the second, which I want to emphasize here, is that he participates in a certain measure in the consecration which made Jesus the essential Priest of a cultus assured of divine approval till the end of time.

The baptized, in fact, has power to co-operate liturgically in the sacrifice of the Mass, in which Jesus never ceases to offer the world to His Father: at Mass he can be not only a spectator but an actor and a participant: we see this, for example, in the collective form of the prayers of the Canon, or again in the ancient custom of dismissing the catechumens before the Offertory. As to Christ's privilege of communicating grace, the baptized have, to start with, something that can be referred to it, since they are able validly to receive the other Christian sacraments, which are so many channels of grace; and they even participate in it directly, since at their marriages, of which they themselves are the ministers, they can be the instruments of grace.

A second Christian consecration fulfils and deepens that of Baptism. It is given at Confirmation. The confirmed soul is first of all more congruously prepared for the valid reception of the other sacraments. It brings that soul this gift above all, that when it courageously confesses the faith it does so not simply as carrying out, with the help of a special sacramental grace, a personal moral duty; but as continuing in the world, in the name of the entire Church, that public, exterior, and liturgical witness to the truth that Christ came to bear, and which, from Pentecost onward, will never cease.[154]

Thus, like the precious ointment that ran down from Aaron's beard to the last fringes of his robe, the priesthood of Christ is diffused in its various degrees throughout the Church, among clergy and laity alike. Both, when they exercise the sacerdotal power they hold, are the principle, the efficient ministerial cause, of the Christian cultus.

2. All souls in a state of grace owe the fact to the priesthood of Christ, grace being the supreme fruit of His priesthood. In this first general and indirect sense, these souls participate in the priesthood of Christ. They can already utter, with St. John, the praise of Jesus: "He hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us a kingdom and priests to God and his Father" (Apoc. i. 5-6). They can already hear the revelation of the prince of the Apostles: "But you are a chosen priesthood, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people; that you may declare his virtues who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light" (1 Peter ii. 9).[155]

But souls who, by the consecration of Baptism and then by that of Confirmation, have been dedicated to the Christian cultus, participate also directly in the priesthood of Christ. They are able to play an efficacious part in the great redemptive liturgy instituted by Christ as Head of the definitive Testament, and perpetuated by the ministry of succeeding generations. When Scripture says of the baptized that they are marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit (Eph. i. 13; iv. 30) that must be understood first of the seal of the Divinity who dwells in them, and then of the created signature of grace which prepares them for the life of glory in the heavenly Kingdom; but it can be understood also of a second created sealing, of a spiritual imprint, of the power to carry out sacerdotally the first acts of the cultus in the Kingdom of God upon earth, the Church militant. So also when the Scriptures say in various ways that the baptized are "incorporate with Christ so as to live with His life" that no doubt means first and foremost that they partake by grace of the inner holiness of His heart; but it may mean furthermore—and Christian antiquity has always so understood it—that they are enabled to enter into valid and efficacious union with the sacrifice in His Blood by which He finally willed to save mankind.

5. Consecration To The Cultus And Moral Sanctity

The idea that all Christians, clergy and laity together, are consecrated persons with a mission to perpetuate a cultus, a liturgy—the idea that a consecration, a sacramental power, incorporates us as members, ministerial organs, into Christ, Ruler and Head of the cultus of the New Testament—this idea is secondary (the primary one being that of our incorporation into Christ by charity), but it is nevertheless essential and fundamental to the Christian revelation.

The ancient world everywhere and always understood the need of offering to God certain dedicated and consecrated actions and things, through dedicated and consecrated persons. But it did not succeed either in plumbing the idea of consecration to its depths or in keeping it free from the worst corruptions. Before the Incarnation took place, before the substantial unction of the Divinity had come to consecrate the Saviour of men and make Him the High Priest of a new cultus, sacerdotal consecrations could be no more than figures, pure signs; they represented powers of a moral and juridical nature conferred by simple designation, by simple delegation—even if recourse were had to the ceremony of anointing. This at least appears to have been so in the more favourable cases, under the natural law or the Mosaic law. But in the pagan world, by a monstrous perversion the idea of the "dedicated" or "consecrated" gradually usurped the place of the idea of moral goodness and began to Supplant it. So sinister an aberration might have compromised irremediably the truth contained in the idea of consecration if Christianity had not come to purify it, save it, and raise it to its highest perfection. In fact, at the moment when the Word, becoming flesh, had consecrated the Messiah by the unction of His divinity, filling His soul with the most precious gifts, and making Him at once Ruler and Head of a new outpouring of grace and sanctity, and of a new and permanent cultus, it became manifest first that moral sanctity and sacramental consecration are both—though on different grounds—essential to Christianity; and, moreover, that the consecration by which we are incorporated as members and instruments [156] with Christ, Ruler and Head of the cultus, is no longer a simple jurisdictional power conferred by delegation, but a physical, spiritual, sacerdotal power conferred by contact with Christ, a contact mysteriously effected through the sacraments that confer a character.

The dissident Oriental Churches have retained a very clear and fully appreciative notion of the consecration conferred by the sacraments. Protestantism, by an error directly contrary to that of the pagans, attempted to eliminate the notion of consecration and to substitute that of moral holiness; in this it gravely misconceived the essence of Christianity which does not oppose the two notions but reconciles them.[157] Still, as we have said, the perpetuity of the Christian cultus continues none the less to be beneficial even to those who misconceive it or pass it by.

However, although all members of the Church, clerics and laymen alike, partake of the sacerdotal power of Christ, they are not all in Holy Orders. It is with the various levels and consecrations arising from the sacrament of Holy Order that the hierarchy begins.[158]



1. The Existence And Nature Of The Power Of Order

1. For the provisional cultus of the Old Law, with its sacrifices and its ceremonies which were no more than shadows and figures, the economy of the Word made flesh substituted the definitive cultus of the New Law, with its sacrifice and its sacraments, which are truth and reality because they contain Christ and the grace of Christ. Although all Christians receive the power to participate validly in this cultus, which brings into the world the sources of life from which each may drink in proportion to the intensity of his desire, this power nevertheless has degrees.

Besides the power given by Baptism, and that given by Confirmation, there is a third power coming from Holy Orders [159] and not given to all.[160] This is the power to consecrate the true Body and true Blood of Our Lord, and to forgive or retain sins, [161] so that the priesthood of Christ on the cross shall never fail the world.[162] This power, being a ministerial power, [163] can be validly exercised even by the unworthy.[164] It resides in the soul in the manner of an indelible spiritual mark, [165] so that the man who is once a priest can never again become a layman, [166] and the sacrament which confers this power cannot be repeated.[167] That is the essence of the doctrine of the Council of Trent on the nature of the power of order.

2. The main elements of this doctrine are visible in Scripture. In the first place the Scriptures show us Christ conferring powers upon some only of his followers. On the evening of the Last Supper He commanded the Apostles to do the wonderful thing that He had just done, that is to say to change the bread into His Body and the wine into His Blood and to continue to do it until He should come again (Luke xxii. 19; I Cor. xi. 24-25). Before His Ascension Christ sent the disciples, as the Father had sent Him, with power to remit or retain sins (John xx. 21-23). All power had been given Him in heaven and upon earth, and so He would command the Apostles to baptize all nations till the world should come to an end (Mark xvi. 15; Matt. xxviii. 18-20); and though it be true that anyone can be the extraordinary minister of Baptism, yet the same traditional teaching that tells us so tells us also that the ordinary ministers of Baptism are the ordained.

Scripture shows us, in vivid vignettes, that there are liturgical acts not to be carried out indifferently by all Christians. Philip the deacon baptizes the Samaritans; but he cannot bring down the Holy Ghost on them by imposition of hands: that is a power reserved to the Apostles, who proceeded to send Peter and John into Samaria (Acts viii. 14-17). At Corinth, it is another Apostle, Paul, who imposes hands on the neophytes to give them the Holy Spirit (Acts xix. 6). St. James commands the sick to ask for the presbyters of the Church to receive from their hands the anointing with oil in the name of the Lord (v. 14).

Finally, Scripture speaks of the transmission and permanence of the power of order. "Neglect not the grace that is in thee by prophecy, with imposition of the hands of the priesthood" says St. Paul to Timothy (1 Tim. iv. 14). Timothy had been designated by prophecy (cf. I Tim. i. 18), but the imposition of hands had given him a permanent gift. Hence St. Paul's exhortation: "Stir up the grace of God which is in thee by the imposition of my hands" (2 Tim. i. 6). Hence Timothy's power to impose hands in his turn on others, but not without due caution (1 Tim. v. 22). Titus undoubtedly acted in the same way since Paul had left him in Crete to establish presbyters in every city, to be bishops without reproach, dispensing the good things of God and watching over purity of doctrine (Tit. i. 5-9).

A power to offer the sacrifice and to confer the sacraments of the New Law, a power coming from Christ, transmitted by the Apostles and their successors, not to be given a second time to the same person, but to be "stirred up, "since it resides permanently in the soul, and setting up a difference of rank, a hierarchy—there we have the power of order as it appears in the Scriptures.

3. This doctrine is echoed by St. Augustine. Some of the Donatists thought that although apostates remain baptized, it is otherwise with the power of baptizing. St. Augustine replies that both the power received in Baptism and the power to confer Baptism (solemn) [168] are equally ineffaceable: "Both are sacraments, both are conferred by a consecration: the first when one baptizes, the second when one ordains. That is why it is forbidden to repeat them in the Catholic Church. When dignitaries coming out of schism and renouncing their errors have been received into her once more in peace, and when it seems good to allow them to exercise their old functions, they are not re-ordained. For Order, like Baptism, has remained in them intact. What was found evil in them was the schism, which has been repaired by the peace of unity; but not the sacraments, which always keep their nature."[169] Thus for St. Augustine the power of order is an ineffaceable sacramental character, which exists and remains efficacious even in the unworthy.

With St. Augustine, the doctrine of the sacramental characters becomes firmly established in theology. But St. Augustine was no innovator; he merely renders explicit the traditional doctrine. Between Scripture and himself an uninterrupted chain of witnesses, passing through the Didache, St. Clement of Rome and St. Ignatius of Antioch, shows us an ordained hierarchy celebrating the Christian cultus, and this, being a cultus in truth and reality and no longer in shadows and figures, demands a special spiritual consecration. When Tertullian—who had at first rightly blamed the heretics for making over the sacerdotal power to laymen, not by a "consecration" but by a simple "injunction" (laicis sacerdotalia munera injungunt)—came later to maintain that the priesthood (and by this he meant the power of order) belonged to all men, and that laymen could validly celebrate the Eucharist and remit sins—then he himself became the innovator.[170]

2. The Divisions And Degrees Of The Power Of Order

The divisions set up by divine institution appear in the historical documents well before others of ecclesiastical institution. They comprise the three principal degrees of the power of order.

A. The Divisions Of The Power Of Order

1. The power of order that Christ left in the world to assure the continuity of the chief acts of the Christian cultus is virtually multiple. That is why, besides the plenary realization found in its highest degree, there are lower realizations in which its virtue is participated. These different realizations of the divine power of order mark the degrees of the hierarchy.[171]

Three of these are of divine institution: the episcopate, the presbyterate, and the diaconate.[172] The episcopate carries with it, besides the plenary power to change the bread into Christ's proper Body, the plenary power to sanctify His Mystica1 [173] or Social Body, by preparing the faithful to approach the Eucharist. The presbyterate gives the plenary power to consecrate the proper Body of Christ and a merely partial power to sanctify the Mystical Body of Christ.[174] The diaconate gives only a partial power whether over the proper Body or the Mystical Body of Christ.

The last of these three divinely instituted powers, the diaconate, contains in an eminent manner other lower powers, which gradually made their appearance in the course of time, as the divine cultus developed. The subdiaconate was instituted, and the various Minor Orders.[175] Christ is their Author in the sense that He alone gave the power of the diaconate to His Church. But the unfolding of this power is of ecclesiastical origin. It was effected in the Latin Church as early as the third century.[176] However, the Church is entitled to bring back to unity at one period what she has distinguished at another.[177]

2. Scripture shows us in the sacred ministers of the primitive Church, the three degrees of the power of order, which, according to the authoritative teaching, are of divine institution.[178]

The episcopate, which carries not only the power of order, but also the power of transmitting orders to others, was conferred by St. Paul on Timothy, who was to impose hands in his turn; and on Titus who was charged with the duty of establishing the hierarchy in the cities of Crete (1 Tim. v. 22; Tit. i. 5-9).

Were the "presbyters" mentioned in Scripture, or some of them, only laymen? Various writers think so. But some, at any rate, had the power of order. Paul and Barnabas, after prayer and fasting, set them at the head of the Churches of Asia (Acts xiv. 22). If these presbyters imposed hands on Timothy (1 Tim. iv. 14) that, no doubt, could only be because hands had already been imposed on themselves. They were to bring the sacramental anointing, which remits sins, to the sick (Jas. v. 14). A more difficult question arises: were they simple priests or genuine bishops? Scripture in fact calls them bishops, episcopoi: for example the presbyters of Ephesus whom St. Paul had called to Miletus, were "bishops ruling the Church of God" (Acts xx. 28); and the presbyters whom Titus ordained were to be bishops without blame (Tit. i. 5-7). The question cannot be answered with any certainty.[179] "Probably the same answer would not apply to every case. St. John Chrysostom, and other authors after him, believed that whenever several bishops are mentioned in the same city, as at Ephesus and Philippi, they could only be simple priests. Petau on the other hand considers that most of them were bishops."[180]

As to the deacons, if on occasion they were put to serve tables, they too were sacred ministers. The Acts represent them as consecrated by the imposition of the hands of the Apostles (vi. 6), and as ministers of Baptism (viii. 38).

3. Outside Scripture the earliest documents of Apostolic times witness that the power of order was subject to several degrees. The Didache, speaking of the eucharistic sacrifice announced by Malachias, adds that bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord will have to be chosen to offer it (xiv and xv). The Epistle of St. Clement of Rome (xl. 2-xli. I), composed towards the year 95, insists on the distinct roles of the clergy and laity (this word appears here for the first time) in the celebration of the cultus: "The offerings and liturgies should be carried out not in any optional or unordered way, but, as the Master commands, at determinate occasions and hours. His own sovereign will has determined where and by whom they are to be carried out, so that all may be done in a holy manner according to His good pleasure. . . To the high priest [Christ? the Bishop? ] are reserved the proper liturgies; to the presbyters a special place is assigned, for the Levites [deacons] there are distinct services; the layman is bound by the precepts peculiar to the laity."[181] Some years later St. Ignatius of Antioch praises, for example, the Trallians for being obedient "to their bishop as to Jesus Christ", "to the presbyterium as to the Apostles of Jesus Christ", and he recommends the deacons, "superintendents of the mysteries of Jesus Christ" and "servants of the Church of God", to be pleasing to all (ii. 1-3). He adds: "Let all reverence the deacons as Jesus Christ, the bishop as the image of the Father, the presbyters as the council of God and the assembly of the Apostles. Without these there is no Church" (iii. I).

Bishops, priests, deacons—such, in the line of order, in virtue of divine institution, already clearly indicated in the earliest magisterium of the Church, are the degrees of the hierarchy. We must now consider for a moment each degree in particular.

B. The Degrees Of The Power Of Order

1: The priests. The sacramental or sacerdotal power of priests is two-fold. They have power over the proper Body of Christ when they consecrate the Eucharist; and they have power over the Mystical Body of Christ when they prepare the faithful to approach the Eucharist.

When he celebrates the Eucharist, which is at the same time the sacrifice of the New Law and the sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Saviour, the priest does not say: "This is the Body of Jesus, this is the Blood of Jesus. "To make clear that the rite of the Last Supper is being reproduced not merely similarly but identically, and to make clear moreover that at this tremendous moment his own personal mediation is purely instrumental, the priest, in Christ's name, repeats Christ's words: This is My Body, This is My Blood. "Of the consecration," says St. Ambrose, "what are the words? Whose are the words? They are the words of the Lord Jesus. All the words that precede them are the priest's. He praises God. He prays for the people, for kings, for the neighbour; but when he comes to this venerable mystery [venerabile sacramentum], then he uses his own words no longer but the words of Christ. The mystery is fulfilled by the words of Christ."[182] The supreme function of the priest as priest is thus to disappear in the presence of Christ, whom he offers to God and gives to the world. His maxim should be that of the Precursor: "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John iii. 30).

The secondary function of priests concerns not the individual or real Body of Christ, but His social or Mystical Body. It consists in leading the people of God to the Eucharist. For this purpose [183] they are given the power of cleansing souls, whether from sin by the sacrament of Penance—"As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. . . whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them: whose sins you shall retain, they are retained" (John xx. 21-23) [184]—or from the last consequence of sin by the sacrament of Extreme Unction: "Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the priests of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord" (Jas. v. 14). They are the ordinary ministers of solemn Baptism. And they can be extraordinary ministers of Confirmation, for they possess the radical power to confer it, [185] and the Sovereign Pontiff will sometimes exempt them from the reservation of the valid administration of this sacrament to bishops alone.

2: The lower ministers. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit the Apostles detached the diaconate from the priesthood. The Church, on her own initiative, was similarly to detach the lower powers of the sub-diaconate and the Minor Orders from the diaconate. The priesthood, defined by its principal act, is the power to celebrate the sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Our Lord. The diaconate and the lower orders, if defined by their principal act, as St. Thomas Aquinas defines them, [186] appear as the powers to prepare, remotely or proximately, the eucharistic sacrifice. The raison d'etre of the power of order and of its hierarchized participations is thus, above all else, continually to present to the world the redemption effected by Christ on the cross.

3: The bishops. The most sublime of powers is the power to consecrate the Eucharist; and this the priest does. In the strict line of sacramental power here in question, what more does the bishop do? In what sense is the episcopate the fullness of the priesthood?

When a priest is consecrated bishop, it is not that he receives intensively the power to consecrate the Eucharist, but that he receives extensively the power to prepare the people for the Eucharist; not the direct power over what is called the proper Body of Christ (hence the bishop is not superior to the priest as regards the principal act of the power of order) but the lateral power over what is called the Mystical Body of Christ. And hence the bishop is superior to the priest for the secondary act of the power of order.[187] The priest is the minister of Baptism, Penance, Extreme Unction, and even, extraordinarily, of Confirmation and of certain orders. But the bishop is the ordinary minister of Confirmation and ordination: he has an essentially unrestricted power to administer these two sacraments.[188] The sacerdotal power in the bishop being consecrated is not strengthened as to its primary act, the consecration of the Eucharist; it is expanded on the plane of its secondary act, in this sense—that it is in its essence unrestricted in the line of an act which is, itself, less lofty from the point of view of intension: the act of conferring Confirmation and Holy Orders. And, if we may say of the sacerdotal power what is said of living things, that they attain their perfection only when ready to reproduce themselves, it follows that the plenitude of the priesthood resides, not in the priest—though in consecrating the Eucharist he performs the supreme act of the Christian cultus—but in the bishop.[189]

3. The Role Of The Power Of Order In The Church

1. While the Scriptures remain intact they will always witness that Christ was the Priest consecrated by God, first to offer to God a perfect sacrifice, a sacrifice to be commemorated to the end of time by the ministers admitted to participation in His sovereign sacerdotal power; and next to procure a redemption for the world, a redemption to be applied to human beings individually by the ministry of the sacraments.

Christ's consecration was not as that of the kings, prophets, or priests who preceded Him. It came from the fact that He was the Word made flesh, and that the fullness of the Godhead, dwelling in Him as a permanent unction, not only sanctified Him substantially, making all His actions theandric, [190] but also poured into His soul the source of the sacerdotal power, and the source of created sanctity; whence the double consecration that ineffably prepared Him for His mission of saving mankind. "So Christ also did not glorify himself that he might be made a high priest: but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee" (Heb. v. 5). Jesus therefore is and will remain Priest, in a sense in which no other will ever be priest.

Those who today are called by that name are no more than the vehicles of His irreplaceable priesthood, the dispensers of His redemption, the channels by which He has willed it to be brought down to the people. In the priests of the New Law the power of order is a permanent quality, not in the least self-activated, but always needing, as every instrument does, to receive from Christ the virtue that shall actualize, elevate and apply it to the production of its effect. It is the divine power that uses the power of order. It is not—as we are told by Protestants, from the liberals to Karl Barth, and along with these by all who regard the sacraments as magical and the Incarnation as a pagan cult—it is not the power of order that "uses" and "captures" the divine omnipotence.[191] When the priests consecrate the eucharistic sacrifice in which Christ wills to associate us with the bloody offering of the cross, and when they confer the sacraments of grace, then, in virtue of the power of order, they are as instruments in the hands of Christ in heaven, and they stand to Him somewhat as the brush to the artist, or the pen filled with ink and ready for use in the writer's fingers, crying out, so to say, for the free action of the writer.[192] The power of order is not a power superior to the sacerdotal power of Christ, nor even independent of it, but a power constantly and completely subordinated to it, a power purely instrumental.

2. Philosophers tell us that the effect resembles the principal cause, not the instrumental cause. If, in the celebration of the sacrifice or the administration of the sacraments, the priest is no more than an instrument in the hands of Christ, then it is the riches of Christ that pass into the world, not the poverty of the priest. And when the minister is unworthy, when the hierarchy is overrun with evil growths, when Judas dispenses the gift of Christ, it is still the gift of Christ that continues to pass. But heresies, terrible judgments of God on His Church, lie close at hand, and it will always be their favourite tactic to use the abuses that disfigure divine institutions to attack those institutions themselves. Souls are then in great peril, but the personal responsibility of each of them remains, and the course they have to steer, however heroic, is clear enough. "You know well that if a filthy and badly dressed person brought you a great treasure from which you obtained life, you would not hate the bearer however ragged and filthy he might be, through love of the treasure and the lord who sent it you. His state would indeed displease you, and you should be anxious for love of his master that he should be cleansed from his foulness and properly clothed. This then is your duty according to the demands of charity, and thus I wish you to act with regard to such badly ordered priests, who, themselves filthy and clothed with garments ragged with vice through their separation from my love, bring you great treasures—that is to say the sacraments of Holy Church—from which you may obtain the life of grace, receiving them worthily. . . It is not according to my will that they should administer to you the Sun, being themselves in darkness, or that they should be stripped of the garment of virtue, foully living in dishonour; on the contrary I have given them to you, and appointed them to be earthly angels and suns, as I have said. It not being my will that they should be in this state, you should pray for them, and not judge them, leaving their judgment to me. And I, moved by your prayers, will do them mercy if they will only receive it, but if they do not correct their life, their dignity will be the cause of their ruin. For if they do not accept the breadth of my mercy, I, the supreme Judge, shall terribly condemn them at their last extremity, and they will be sent to the eternal fire."[193]

3. All the baptized and all the confirmed, as we have seen, directly participate in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. They have the active power to exercise, in a way that is not merely material and exterior, but valid and liturgical, certain acts of Christian worship—to unite themselves for example with the offering of the sacrifice of the Mass, to confess the Christian faith; and also an active power to be ministers in the celebration of their own marriages. They have furthermore (whether simply or perfectly, according as they are baptized only or also confirmed) the passive power to receive, not merely materially or outwardly, but validly, liturgically and sacramentally, all the other sacraments.

But to what would the sacramental power given in Baptism be reduced if there were no priests to offer the sacrifice of the Mass, if there were neither priests nor bishops to confer the other sacraments? It would deposit in the baptized, in preference to the non-baptized, a certain connaturality to confer non-solemn or private Baptism; and it would give them a radical power to contract Christian marriage, the spouses themselves being the valid ministers and subjects. With Baptism and Matrimony sacramental grace would make its appearance in the world. But the sacrifice and five of the sacraments of the New Law would be lost.

The power of order is not to be defined save in function of the personal sacerdotal work which Christ still carries out by the sacrifice and by the sacraments of the New Law.

The sacrifice of the cross, perpetuated in the bloodless rite of the Mass, remains not simply a meritorious cause of the salvation of each generation of men (and at the same time latreutic, propitiatory, impetratory and eucharistic), but also an instrumental efficient cause "conjoined" to the Divinity (as the hand is an instrument "conjoined" to a human person), the suffering Christ having been the organ used by the Divinity in sending down His mercy on the world.

And the sacraments of the New Law are, as regards each individual man, an instrumental efficient cause of sacramental grace and even of the sacramental power—an instrumental efficient cause "separated" from the Divinity (as the pen is an instrument "separated" from the person of the writer).

Thus the sacrifice of the Mass and the sacraments of the New Law are the causes of redemptive grace in our midst—the super-eminent meritorious cause and "conjoined" efficient cause in the case of the sacrifice of the Mass, which brings us the whole Passion of Our Lord; and an efficient cause "separated" from the Divinity in the case of the sacraments of the New Law, which distribute the particular effects of the Passion.

Now, it is the power of order which enables those in whom it resides to act as instruments in the action that perpetuates the sacrifice of the cross.

And, save for the sacrament of Matrimony, it is still this same power of order that enables those in whom it resides to act as instruments in the sacramental transmission of grace and of the sacramental power itself. For the sacrament and he who confers it are together but a single instrument in the hands of God.

So that it is from the power of order that the whole Christian cultus is suspended.

Neither the sacrifice nor the sacrament of the Eucharist would be perpetuated in the world if, per impossibile, the power of order were extinguished; if, in other words, the apostolic succession were interrupted. And the Eucharist is the centre of the Christian cultus.[194] Those other acts of the cultus which could still be exercised would, with the disappearance of the Eucharist, lose their highest purpose.

The whole being of the Church in all her parts is permeated by the sacerdotal power of Christ; the shadow of the supreme consecration of the Eternal Pontiff entirely covers her, invests, consecrates and spiritualizes her, and enables her validly to continue the outward cultus, celebrated by Christ on the threshold of the new era, to be continued down the ages "till He come" to judge the world.

But, in a part of her being, the Church is still more intimately permeated by the sacerdotal power of Christ.[195] In those of her children who receive the power of order she is consecrated, spiritualized, so that as an instrument moved by Christ she may carry out the highest acts of the Christian cultus—those acts which constitute its centre and heart, around which all the rest are grouped and from which they receive their meaning.

The hierarchic sacramental power, or power of order, acts as an efficient cause in the Church and in the world. It enables those who possess it to act as instrumental causes hypostatically "separated" from the Divinity—Christ being an Instrumental Cause hypostatically "conjoined" to the Divinity—in the dispensing of the graces which possess the greatest perfection—i.e. sacramental graces. And it enables them, always as "separated" instrumental causes, to make Our Lord corporeally present through all time with all the virtue of His Passion, and thus to lift succeeding generations from the slough of sin.



1. Christians Unequal Before The Hierarchy But Equal As To Salvation

Christ, the Head of the Church, is He, says St. Paul "from whom the whole body, by joints and bands, being Supplied with nourishment and compacted, groweth unto the increase of God" (Col. ii. 19). In these joints and bands by which the life of the Head is communicated to the whole body to give it due growth, it is easy, especially in the light of the later life of the Church, to recognize the jurisdictional and sacramental powers of the hierarchy. From St. Paul we learn how some illuminatus, worshipping angels with false humility, and a confidence based on merely human speculation (ibid. I 8: Knox version), sought to detach the citizens of Colossae from these powers. In a parallel text of the Epistle to the Ephesians, the Apostle teaches that the inequalities of the ministry, far from forming an obstacle to the unity of the faithful in truth and in love, are the very means to it; and that their end is to bring us all "into the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. iv. 13).[196]

There is nothing repellent in the idea of hierarchical inequality. If the power of order is a reserved privilege, [197] its supreme justification and raison d'etre is to distribute the far more precious, wholly incomparable, riches of salvation universally to all the world. The man in whom resides the power of order is the instrument who, in the celebration of the Eucharist, brings down the presence of Christ Himself, drawing into the bloody offering of the cross those who, without daring to lift up their eyes to heaven, were making a futile search in and around themselves for that wholly pure Supplication needed to obtain forgiveness for their sins, to lead other souls to the truth, to bring down each morning the heaven of love on the hard egoism of the world; to bring us Christ, whose own heart beats in the heart of His visible Church which He strengthens against all the assaults of hell. Again, this man is the instrument whom God makes use of from heaven to dispense through the sacraments, to those who approach them as Suppliants, the remission of their sins, the gift of a new birth, the living water capable at once of maintaining and quenching the thirst of their exile and of springing up unto eternal life. In the presence of the riches of the sacrifice of the Mass and of the sacraments of the New Law, there remains no other inequality among Christians than the inequality of their desire and love, their hunger and thirst. It is not the hierarchic degree that counts but the degree of poverty, of humility, abnegation, suffering, and magnanimity. It was not the power to strike the rock in the desert of Sinai that quenched the thirst of Moses, but the water itself that sprang up in abundance for himself and for all the people. Thus the men of the hierarchy cannot be sanctified by the power of order taken alone, but rather by grace, the issue of this power, a grace they receive on the same conditions as all other Christians. Inasmuch as they possess the power of order, the Pope, the bishops, priests and ministers belong to the hierarchy, but inasmuch as they have souls to save, they take their place among the faithful; they belong to the "Church believing" and, when they think of the heavy account they will have to render, they are likely to consider themselves the last among men—for fear, as the Apostle warns them, that having converted others they should themselves be castaways (1 Cor. ix. 27).

2. The Maternity Of The Church

At the moment when the Word became flesh, the divine virtue was carried into the heart of the material universe to restore, transform and sanctify it. Not only the corporeal nature of Christ, but material nature in its entirety, was then invited to share in a dignity hitherto unheard-of. For if in the Incarnation itself it was Christ's Body that became the instrument of the Spirit of God, in the sacraments it is now other elements, of the mineral, vegetable and human order: bread, water, wine, oil, our own bodily acts and words.[198] Henceforth we can say that the earth which, till then, had provided man only with his bodily life and nutriment, appears in the sacraments as provider for his spiritual life and food as well.[199]

But—and there is no exception save in the case of private Baptism—the minister who applies the sacraments of the New Law has to be consecrated; he has to possess the sacramental power. The instrumental cause adopted by the Spirit to confer grace comprehends the sacrament, the minister, and the sacramental power of the minister. As compared with the other elements of this instrumental cause, the sacramental power, which is a participation of the priesthood of Christ, is the element that elevates, spiritualizes, supernaturalizes. It is therefore, as it were, the soul of the instrumental cause. It makes that cause fully fit to be used by the Spirit in the giving of His benefits.

Now, Matrimony excepted, the sacramental power needed to administer the sacraments is the power of order.[200] Moreover, that power alone enables the central sacrifice of the Christian religion to be perpetuated from generation to generation. Hence also it is the power of order, the first and chief of the hierarchic powers—the second being the jurisdictional or pastoral power—to which the maternal function of the Church is primarily and principally due.

This maternity is much more than a mere touching evocation of the cares and tendernesses of a mother in the work of the hierarchy as the "teaching Church". It means that the hierarchy has all that real importance for our supernatural life that a mother has for her children's natural life. Scheeben, who makes much of it, indicates the two chief aspects of this maternity: fecundity (Fruchtbarkeit), which he refers wholly to the power of order, to the sacerdotium; and the educative and pastoral function (Hirtengewalt), which he refers to the power of jurisdiction. When he speaks of fecundity he recalls that the Holy Spirit, who by the mediation and free acquiescence of Our Lady, formed Christ to give Him to the world, avails Himself today of the mediation of the power of order to make this same Christ substantially present in our midst under the eucharistic species: so that the maternity of Our Lady to which we owe the birth of Christ, finds a kind of replica in the maternity of the power of order, to which we owe the eucharistic Christ.

Nor does the maternal function of the priesthood stop there. It touches all Christians who, by way of the sacraments, are incorporated into Christ as His members and compose His Church. It is the power of order, the priesthood, which, as a mere instrument indeed of the divine omnipotence, brings forth children at Baptism, prepares them for the struggle of life at Confirmation, nourishes them with the eucharistic Bread, cleanses them of their stains and heals their infirmities by Penance and Extreme Unction; and finally renews and perpetuates itself by the conferring of Orders.[201]

On the day of the Annunciation the Holy Spirit gave a mysterious fecundity to Our Lady, making her the Mother of Christ and consequently the Mother of all men. This fecundity He now communicates, in a different and analogical manner no doubt, to the power of order, to the priesthood, so that it may bring the eucharistic Christ into the world and generate the Church which is His Body; the Body to which all who are to be saved must either consciously or unconsciously belong. Here, at its purest and highest, we have the maternal function of the hierarchy.

If we include the hierarchic function within the very heart of the Church, and make "the Church" a fusion of the "Church teaching" and the "Church believing", then, to those who ask why Christ should have recourse to a hierarchy to baptize, consecrate the Eucharist, remit sins and so forth, we shall answer with the mystical theologians of the Middle Ages [202] that undoubtedly Christ alone could have done all these things, but that, having entered into union with the Church as with His Spouse and as His own flesh, He willed to receive His immediate children from none but her.[203]

3. The Deficiencies Of Certain Members Of The Hierarchy; Texts Of St. John Chrysostom And St. Augustine

The depositaries of the hierarchical powers who, in Christ's name, proclaim the truth and communicate life, may, by their personal conduct, offend and even betray Christ. The important thing is that Christ's message and Christ's holiness should, in spite of all, be passed on to other men. There will always be hearts ready to receive them, a deep and fertile earth in which they can strike their roots. Nobody would be excused for pleading the thorns as a pretext for neglecting the roses. St. John Chrysostom puts it plainly enough: "You are asked to get rid of your sins, not to show that others have committed the like."

"We are ready," he says, "to give an account of ourselves. Even if that were not so, even if your teachers were corrupt, rapacious, avaricious, their perversion would not be your justification. For the Lover of man, the All-wise, the Only-Begotten Son of God, seeing all things, knowing that in so great length of time in so vast a world there would be many bad priests; lest their neglect should increase the carelessness of the flock, removing all excuse: In Moses' seat, saith He, sit the Scribes and Pharisees; all things therefore they shall bid you do, that observe and do, but after their works do ye not: for they say, and do not [Matt. xxiii. 2]; showing that even if your teacher be wayward you will not therefore be excused for failing to do the good that he teaches. God will judge you not for what your teacher did, but for what you learnt from him and did not do. So that if you do the things commanded you will be safe enough; but if you have transgressed them it will avail you nothing to point to ten thousand bad priests. Judas indeed was an Apostle, but this will never excuse the sacrilegious and the covetous; and no one accused will be able to say: Why, even an Apostle was a thief, and sacrilegious, and a traitor! Yea, this very thing shall most of all be our punishment and condemnation, that not even by the evil of others were we corrected. For this cause also these things were written in Scripture, that we might be warned not to imitate them. Wherefore, without worrying any more about so-and-so let us be attentive to ourselves; for each of us will have to give an account of himself to God."[204]

The same saint says again when showing that the priesthood is superior to royalty: "To the king earthly things are entrusted: to me, heavenly. To me; that is, to the priest. So when you notice an unworthy priest do not attack the priesthood; the thing itself is not to be blamed, but he who puts the good thing to bad use. If Judas was a traitor, that is no condemnation of the apostolate, but simply of his own life; it is not an objection against the priesthood but a sin against his conscience. Never therefore accuse the priesthood, but the priest who uses good things ill. If anyone, disputing with you, says: look now, there goes your Christian! answer, I am not concerned with persons, but with things. For indeed, how many physicians turn out to be executioners, and instead of remedies administer poisons! But I do not blame their art, but those who use it badly. How many sailors have wrecked their ships! and yet it is not the art of navigation that is wrong, but the use they make of it. If you meet a bad Christian, accuse neither his faith nor his priesthood, but him who turns so great a thing to such ill account."[205]

About the same time St. Augustine wrote to the virgin Felicia who was disturbed by the conduct of certain of the clergy:

"I exhort you not to let yourself be too much troubled by scandals, which indeed were foretold precisely so that when they happen we may remember that they were foretold and not be disconcerted. For the Lord Himself foretold them in the Gospel. Woe to the world because of scandals. For it must needs be that scandals come: but nevertheless, woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh [Matt. xviii. 7]. Who are these men, if not those of whom the Apostle says: They seek the things that are their own; not the things that are Jesus Christ's [Phil. ii. 21]? Thus there are those who hold the office of shepherds that they may watch over Christ's sheep; and there are those who hold it for the sake of temporal honours and worldly advantages. These two kinds of pastors, always dying and giving place to others, will both be perpetuated in the bosom of the Catholic Church till time end and the Lord come to judgment. For if in the days of the Apostles there were false brethren who made the Apostle groan and complain of perils from false brethren [2 Cor. xi. 26], and yet He did not cast them out but bore with them patiently, how much more now would He not meet with them; since of this age which draws to a close the Saviour said openly: Because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold. But yet let us be consoled and encouraged by what follows: He that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved [Matt. xxiv. 12-13].

"Just as there are good and bad amongst the shepherds, so there are good and bad in the flocks. The good are the sheep; the bad are the goats. But they feed together in the same pastures till the Prince of Shepherds shall come, even the One Shepherd [John x. 16]. Then as He promised, He will divide as a shepherd the sheep from the goats [Matt. xxv. 32]. As for us, He commands us to gather the flock and reserves the work of separation for Himself; He only may separate who cannot err. Presumptuous servants have lightly dared to separate before the time reserved by the Saviour for Himself; and these are they who are separated from Catholic unity. All soiled by schism as they are, how can they call themselves a clean flock?

"So therefore that we may remain in unity, not leaving the Lord's threshing floor even when we are scandalized by the chaff, that we may remain like grains of wheat till the time of the winnowing, and thanks to the charity that brings stability may bear with the beaten straw, our Shepherd Himself speaks in the Gospel both of the good shepherds, asking us not to put our hope in them on account of their good works but to glorify Him who made them such, their Father in heaven; and of the bad shepherds, represented by the Scribes and Pharisees, who teach us good things, and themselves do evil.

"For of the good shepherds He says: You are the light of the world. . . so let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven [Matt. v. 14-16]. And of the bad shepherds He says: The Scribes and Pharisees have sitten on the chair of Moses. All things therefore whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do; but according to their works do ye not: for they say and do not [Matt. xxiii. 2-3]. If they understand these words, the sheep of Christ will know how to hear Christ's voice, even in the evil teachers, and will not forsake the unity of the flock. For the good things they hear them say come from Him, not them; they feed then in safety, and even under bad shepherds they are nourished in the Lord's pastures. But they do not the works of the bad shepherds, for these works come from them, not Him. When they see the good shepherds, not only do they listen to the good things they say, but they follow the good things they do. So it was with the Apostle who said: Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ [1 Cor. xi. I]. He was a light kindled by the Eternal Light, the Lord Jesus Christ. . ."[206]

Here we have, applied to the Church teaching, the very distinction we made with respect to the Church as a whole, when we said that she was not without sinners, but without sin.



Recent historical researches have resulted in the reappraisal of pontifical documents concerning the extraordinary minister of the sacrament of Order, and even in some cases to their discovery for the first time. This invites theologians to get to closer grips with the teaching of the Church's magisterium—particularly at the Council of Trent—on the sacrament of Order, so as to determine its bearings with reference to the numerous opinions held hitherto. In addition, the promulgation of the Apostolic Constitution on the Holy Orders of the Diaconate, Presbyterate and Episcopate (30 Nov. 1947) by His Holiness Pope Pius XII, which declares what are the form and matter henceforth valid for each, is a major event as far as the history of the sacrament of Order is concerned. From all this it follows that we may with profit re-examine the teaching of earlier theologians concerning the degrees of Order and their origin. My intention here is to give a short expose of the present state of the problem and to indicate which would seem to be the solutions to be preferred.

1. The Code Of Canon Law

According to the Code, "by virtue of a divine institution [ex divina institutione] there are in the Church clerics who are distinguished from the laity, although all clerics are not of divine institution," (can. 107). Thus certain clerics are distinct from the laity under divine law.

Clerics "are not all of the same rank, but a sacred hierarchy exists among them in which they are subordinated one to another" (can. 108, §2).

There then follows the fundamental text on the subject of the hierarchy: "By virtue of divine institution [ex divina institutione] the sacred hierarchy comprises [constat] bishops, priests, and ministers in the line of order [ratione ordinis]; and in the line of jurisdiction [ratione jurisdictionis] a supreme pontificate and a subordinated episcopate. But by virtue of an institution of the Church [ex Ecclesiae autem institutione] other degrees besides have been added" (can. 108, §3).

Canon 109 recalls that admission to the hierarchy "depends on neither the consent or demand of the people nor the secular power. Where the degrees of the power of order are concerned it takes place by holy ordination [sacra ordinatione]; where the supreme pontificate is involved it takes place by the divine law itself [ipsomet jure divino] as soon as there has been legitimate election and its acceptance; where the other degrees of jurisdiction, by the canonic mission [canonica missione]".

Canon 329 states further that "the bishops are the Apostles' successors" and that "by virtue of a divine institution [ex divina institutione] they are put in charge of the various particular Churches, which they rule with an ordinary power under the authority of the Roman Pontiff".

It should be noted that there is no question of two hierarchies, one of order and the other of jurisdiction. The Code recognizes one hierarchy alone, comprising degrees of order and of jurisdiction. This hierarchy is of divine institution.

In the line of jurisdiction it has two degrees, instituted directly by Christ and hence of divine law: the supreme pontificate over the universal Church, which is handed on to the successors of Peter only; and the subordinate episcopate, which is handed on to the successors of the other Apostles and by which the various Churches are ruled.

In the line of order, which we are at present considering, the hierarchy has three degrees: bishops, priests and deacons. In view of this, how are we to interpret canon 108 §3? Should we translate it: "By virtue of a divine institution the hierarchy comprises, in the line of order, three degrees: bishops, priests and deacons"? That is the version which seems most natural. If it be followed, we shall recognize distinctions of divine law between episcopate, presbyterate and diaconate in the line of order. On the other hand we can limit the sense and read (though this is decidedly strange): "The hierarchy, which is of divine institution, comprises, in the line of order, three degrees: bishops, priests and deacons" or again "The hierarchy, by virtue of a divine institution, comprises powers of order and of jurisdiction; the powers of order are distributed in three degrees—bishops, priests and deacons." If we do this we leave open the question whether the distinctions between episcopate, presbyterate and diaconate are of divine or canon law.

In this matter the Code would surely have wanted to follow the teaching of the Council of Trent on the sacrament of Order. The Council said: "If anyone shall say that in the Catholic Church there is not a hierarchy instituted by divine ordinance [divina ordinatione institutam] and comprising bishops, priests and ministers, let him be anathema" (Session XXIII, can. 6, Denz. 966). But what does this declaration itself signify? What is the definition concerned with? According to some, this is quite clear; the Council maintains that the distinction between episcopate, presbyterate and diaconate is of divine law. Among others, Cardinal Gasparri, who was later to take a large part in the drawing up of the Code, held this view.[207] According to others, Trent defined that the hierarchy is of divine institution, and did not define that the three degrees of order are so instituted.

The question is who is right? And what was the Council's intention? For my own part I think that: a. the three degrees of Order are indeed of divine institution; b. this point was of set purpose left outside the scope of the conciliar definition.

2. The Council Of Trent And The Distinction Between Priests And Bishops In The: Line Of Order

(1.) Here are the various statements of the Council of Trent on the point under discussion (Session XXIII):

Chapter 4: "For this reason the holy Council declares that the bishops, successors of the Apostles, belong principally to this hierarchic order, more than the other ecclesiastical ranks; and that they are, as the same Apostle says, placed by the Holy Spirit to rule the Church of God [Acts xx. 28]; that they are superior to priests, confer the sacrament of Confirmation, ordain the Church's ministers, and carry out numerous duties, functions over which those of an inferior order have no power."

Can. 6: "If anyone shall say that in the Catholic Church there is not a hierarchy instituted by divine ordinance and comprising bishops, priests and ministers, let him be anathema."

Can. 7: "If anyone shall say that bishops are not superior to priests, or have not the power to confirm and ordain, or that the power which they have is held by them in common with priests. . . let him be anathema" (Denz. 960, 966, 967).

Thus bishops are superior to priests by virtue of the fact that they have a power of confirming and ordaining which is not transmitted to priests.

(2.) The Fathers of the Council had to examine, among others, the two following errors:

"There is no ecclesiastical hierarchy, and all Christians are priests equally; the request of the civil authority and the consent of the people are required for the use or exercise of the priesthood: he who has become a priest may be come a layman again."

"Bishops are not superior to priests and have not the right to ordain; or if they have, they have it in common with priests. . ."[208]

In order to give an answer to the first error, the opening formulae of Canon 6 are content to affirm the existence of the hierarchy—"If anyone shall say that there is not a hierarchy in the Catholic Church, or that all Christians are equally priests and have the same spiritual power, let them be anathema."[209]

"If anyone shall say that in the Catholic Church there is not a hierarchy comprising bishops, priests and other ministers, let him be anathema."[210] A few days before the twenty-third session, the Archbishop of Otranto proposed the formula which, with one word deleted, was finally adopted: "If anyone shall say that in the Catholic Church there is not a hierarchy instituted by divine ordinance [divina ordinatione institutam] comprising bishops, priests and [other] ministers, let him be anathema."[211]

To begin with this was accepted by all. Then some, on second thoughts, wanted to substitute for the phrase "divina ordinatione institutam," which was too general for their liking, others such as "Episcopos institutos a Christo" or "hierarchiam institutam a Christo" or "peculiari et particulari divina ordinatione"[212] or "ordinatione divina Christi".[213] To this the legates replied that "they did not deny that bishops are instituted by Christ, but this demanded precision; they stem from Christ not immediately but mediately through the Sovereign Pontiff; or, they stem from Christ [immediately] in that which concerns order but not in that which concerns jurisdiction".[214]

As an answer to the second error, the council is constant in affirming that bishops are superior to priests by virtue of their power to confirm and ordain. But to the very last there were two tendencies among the Fathers of the Council. Some wished to insert in Canon 7 that the institution of bishops is of divine law: "If anyone shall say that bishops are neither instituted by divine law nor superior to priests. . ."[215] or even that it is due to Christ: "If anyone says that bishops are not instituted by Christ in the Church, or that they are not above priests by holy ordination. . ."[216] The others refused, and it was they who prevailed.

(3) We now have to consider the three chief reasons for this refusal. First, on grounds of economy: it was not necessary to define further than would exactly suffice to condemn the Protestant error in question.[217] Second, a more immediate reason: a number of Catholic writers, Jerome among them, have held that the distinction between bishops and priests is of canon law only. The Council had no intention of cutting short this debate [218] Third (and apparently this reason weighed most): given the circumstances and intellectual climate of the time, a clause defining that bishops are instituted under divine law might have encouraged a brief that they hold their powers directly from God, without their jurisdiction's deriving from the Pope.[219]

The intention of the Council is thus clear. It did not wish to define that the superiority of bishops over priests is of divine law. And thus it would be useless to look for a definition of this kind in the final draft of Canon 6. Moreover, certain of the Fathers of the Council subscribed to the Canon only after declaring their regret that it was not explicit on the subject of the divine right of bishops.[220]

(4) All those who study the Acts of the Council of Trent come to the same opinion. Michel writes that Canon 6 "proclaims as a dogma of faith the existence of this [catholic] hierarchy and in so doing defines as an article of faith the distinction between clerics and laity. This distinction is of divine law: such is the explicit meaning of the incisive divina ordinatione which. . . extends this divine right to the [entire] hierarchy."[221] Concerning Canon 7 he adds: "It would have been interesting to settle precisely whether the superiority of the episcopate over the priesthood pure and simple is of divine law, and if so, in what sense; but on this subject the Council maintained a prudent reserve."[222] Baisi holds the same view: "The thing actually defined by the Council is that in the present state of the Church bishops are superior to priests by the power of jurisdiction and have a special power of order. But it was not defined that either this jurisdictional superiority nor the special power of order are exclusively reserved to them under divine law. It is of course possible to invoke Canon 6 against this conclusion. But the Acts of the Council of Trent show that the expression "divina ordinatione institutam" does not necessarily imply direct and explicit institution by Christ but may well refer to mediate institution by way of the Church."[223] Lennerz also agrees: "Is the difference between the bishop and the priest and the superiority of the bishop to the priest in the line of order of divine law or not? Is it of direct divine institution or institution directly ecclesiastical and indirectly divine, in the sense that the Church has introduced it herself in virtue of a power received from Christ? The Council of Trent deliberately left this question open and undecided. . . . By choosing the expression "divine ordinance "it intended to exclude the question whether the hierarchy of order—the superiority of bishops over priests—was of direct divine institution. . . of divine law or no."[224]

(5) To return to Canon 108 §3 of the Code of Canon Law, which says that "in virtue of a divine institution the sacred hierarchy comprises in the line of order bishops, priests and ministers. . . ": two courses are open to us. On the one hand we can try to reconcile it more or less (and it will be less rather than more) with Canon 6 of the Council of Trent. On the other we can maintain straightforwardly that it undertakes on its own responsibility a precision and determination of a doctrine which Trent left imprecise and indeterminate. I shall here follow the second course.

3. The Episcopate An Order In The Strict Sense Of The Word

1. If a layman were consecrated priest directly, the ordination would be valid and would confer on him all the powers of the diaconate at the full. All theologians agree on this point. But what would happen if a layman were directly consecrated bishop?

Some theologians think that such an ordination would be invalid. According to them, episcopal ordination presupposes the fundamental power of consecrating and offering the true Body of Christ; and the episcopal powers of confirming and ordaining are no more than a complement to this fundamental power, which is concerned with the Mystical Body of Christ. Hence we should say that the episcopate taken by itself, and inadequately, is concerned with the Mystical and not the Sacramental Christ, so that it is an Order only in the loose sense and not in the strict sense; that it is only by reason of the presupposed power to consecrate that it becomes an Order in the strict sense.[225]

According to others, such an ordination would be valid. It would confer, by itself alone, both the power to consecrate the Eucharist and the powers of confirming and ordaining. In this view, the episcopate is not complementary to the priesthood, but a whole of which the priesthood is a part.[226]

Which opinion is to be preferred?[227] This is a question which history must decide. And history establishes with a sufficient degree of certitude that episcopal ordination given to subjects who were not priests has been regarded as valid. "At the historical level, there can be no doubt about the independence of the episcopate with regard to the priesthood. The fullness of the sacerdotal power has frequently been conferred by episcopal ordination on subjects who were not priests."[228]

I shall therefore maintain the view that the episcopate is an Order in the strict sense, and that it is the whole of which the priesthood is a part.[229]

2. What was the thought of St. Thomas concerning the power conferred by episcopal ordination?

A. If we go by what he wrote in the commentary on the Sentences, we shall hold that the bishop possesses a power or order which is conferred on him by consecration, over and above the power of jurisdiction which is conferred on him by delegation. But this power of order should be divided into two distinct powers, both of which cannot be lost:

(a) The principal power of consecrating the true Body of Christ. This power alone is sacramental; it represents the character of Order and is common to both bishops and priests.

(b) The secondary power of directing the worship and the hierarchic action of the Mystical Body of Christ; here the bishop, who can confer Confirmation and all the Orders, is superior to the priest. But in virtue of the fact that it is concerned with the Mystical Body of Christ this power is non-sacramental and exterior to the character of order.

The first power represents Christ by exercising a ministry itself; the second represents Him by instituting ministers who will exercise the ministry, and by organizing the Church.[230]

B. Is this St. Thomas' definitive position? Does he maintain this division of the power of order: that is, into two powers, both conferred by a sacrament which cannot be repeated, both impossible to lose, one sacramental because directed towards the true Body of Christ and the other non-sacramental because directed towards the Mystical Body of Christ? This is not certain. Here is my own view of the matter:

In the fourth book of the Contra Gentiles, in the seventy-fourth chapter, he writes that: (1) The spiritual power of order is sacramental by virtue of being passed on under visible signs: (2) That this power is ordered to the dispensing of the sacraments: (3) "That it belongs to the same power to confer a perfection and to prepare the matter for the reception of the perfection. . . If then the power of order is ordered to the consecration of the Eucharist and the giving of it to the faithful then this power must also be ordered to making the faithful apt to its reception. . . the power of order must therefore extend to the remission of sins by the dispensation of the sacraments instituted to this end, that is, Baptism and Penance. "Thus the one sacramental power is ordered directly to the true Body of Christ and indirectly to the Mystical Body of Christ. On this principle we can no longer distinguish two powers of order of bishops—that is, one sacramental because ordered to the true Body of Christ and one non-sacramental because ordered to the Mystical Body of Christ.

St. Thomas said (In IV Sent. d. 25, q. 1, a. 2, ad 2) that the power received by bishops on their elevation is not a character although it comes from a consecration and cannot be lost," because it orders man not directly to God but to the Mystical Body of Christ". In the Summa (III, q. 63) he teaches that the faithful are prepared "for the acts necessary to the Church as she is at present by a certain spiritual sign imprinted on them which is called the "character" (a. 1, ad 1): that it is properly speaking "the sacramental character" which prepares the faithful "to receive or to dispense to others the things of the cultus", and that this character is nothing other than "a participation in the priesthood of Christ derived from Christ Himself" (a. 3); that the sacrament of Order is a preparation for "dispensing the sacraments to others" (a. 6); that "in order to do or to receive something which is related to the cultus of the priesthood of Christ" it is necessary to receive "a sacrament which imprints a character" (a. 6, ad 1). The sacramental character of order is in all cases defined as the power to dispense the sacraments; it is nowhere confined to the power to consecrate the Eucharist.

C. In conformity with these views the position held will be that the power of bishops is an extension of the sacramental power of order, the sacramental character of order. Its supreme act concerns the true Body of Christ; its secondary act concerns the Mystical Body of Christ. The power of bishops is thus superior to that of priests not intensively, relative to the Sacramental Christ, but extensively, relative to the Mystical Christ. The power to consecrate priests destined to perpetuate the Eucharist itself stems from the sacramental power of order even more directly than the powers to baptize and absolve, which dispose the faithful to receive it.[231]

Here we link up with the text of the Apostolic Constitution on the Holy Orders of the Diaconate, Presbyterate and Episcopate of 30 Nov. . 1947: "The sacrament of Order instituted by Christ Our Lord, which confers a spiritual power and the grace for the holy discharge of ecclesiastical functions, is one and the same for the universal Church" (no. I). There can be no doubt that the spiritual power and grace in question from the opening of the Constitution onwards are of the sacramental order. Further on we read: "All admit that the sacraments of the New Law, being sensible signs and producers of invisible grace, should signify the grace which they produce, and produce the grace which they signify. Now the effects which the sacred ordination of the diaconate, presbyterate and episcopate ought to produce and thus to signify—that is, power and grace—are, in all the rites in use in the universal Church, in divers periods and countries, adequately indicated by the imposition of hands and the words which determine it," (no. 3). From the evidence of this text it results that ordination is a sacrament not only in the case of the diaconate and presbyterate but also in the case of the episcopate: and that the power which it confers is sacramental not only in the case of the first two but in that of the third also.

3. How is the grace of the episcopate to be defined? Understood in a very broad sense, as including, beyond the effects of episcopal consecration, the privileges which generally belong to bishops, it will divide into three levels.

(1) The power of order, with the fullness which it has in bishops and thanks to which it is passed on from age to age since the time of the Apostles by an uninterrupted succession termed apostolic, ensures the eucharistic permanence of the sacrifice of the cross and the dispensation of the sacraments of the New Law. This cultus is entirely messianic in as much as it refers to the first coming of Christ and eschatological inasmuch as it prepares for the second coming of Christ. The charismatic power of bishops, which guarantees its continuity, is a perfect and plenary participation in Christ as Priest.

(2) At the level of conformity to Christ as King and Prophet, the Apostles had an extraordinary jurisdiction, or apostolate, destined for the founding of the Church, to which there has succeeded a permanent jurisdiction or pontificate (divinely assisted) which is destined for the preservation of the Church; the jurisdiction, here taken in its full sense, comprises the power to declare the revealed deposit, and the canonical powers. The universal jurisdiction or sovereign pontificate primarily resides entirely in the Pope alone; but it is participated by the episcopal college united to the Pope and associated with his mission and his concern with catholicity and the expansion of the Church. Moreover, the bishops possess a particular jurisdiction over their own dioceses.

(3) At the level of conformity to the sanctity of Christ, the Apostles, who were the princes of the hierarchy, were also the princes of charity. If, then, the bishops receive at their episcopal consecration the graces which will dispose them to the holy exercise of their functions as pastors of given peoples and—collectively—as participants in the universal pastoral power of the Sovereign Pontiff, it is clear that they will be placed in an exterior state of life analogous to that of the Apostles. St. John Chrysostom regards the bishops, state of life as more difficult, but of a greater perfection, than that of religious; and St. Thomas draws on this doctrine when he teaches that perfection of life, at least initial, is necessary for the episcopal state.[232]

4. How Are Episcopate And Presbyterate To Be Distinguished In The Line Of Order?

1. According to the Council of Trent, bishops exercise "functions over which those of an inferior order have no power," they have a power to confirm and ordain which they do not hold "in common with priests".

Before this, the Council had declared: "If anyone says that the ordinary minister of Confirmation is not the bishop alone, but any priest, let him be anathema" (Session VII, De Confirmatione, can. 3, Denz. 873). This statement the Code of Canon Law clarifies thus: "The ordinary minister of Confirmation is the bishop alone. The extraordinary minister is the priest to whom this faculty has been granted either by ordinary law or by a particular indult of the Apostolic See," (Can. 782, 1 and 2). A similar statement is made by the Code concerning the power to ordain. "The ordinary minister of holy ordination is a consecrated bishop; the extraordinary minister is he who, even though lacking the episcopal character, has received by law or by a particular indult of the Apostolic See the power to confer certain Orders", (Can. 951).

Thus the power of being ordinary ministers of Confirmation and Order is reserved to the bishops. Priests can, by means of a jurisdictional delegation, be the extraordinary ministers of Confirmation and certain Orders. Which Orders, is not said. Historical research inclines theologians to think of not only the Minor Orders and the subdiaconate but also of the diaconate and even the priesthood.

2. What difference is there between the ordinary and the extraordinary powers of conferring Confirmation and certain Orders?

A reply based on John of St. Thomas would be that the physical power of confirming and conferring certain Orders is to be found in either bishop or priest. In the bishop, who is the ordinary minister of these sacraments, the power is always unfettered in exercise and not subject to limitation; as far as validity is concerned it can be exercised immediately and unconditionally. In the priest, who is the extraordinary minister of these sacraments, this power is always subject to limitation and is ordinarily so limited; as far as validity is concerned, it cannot be exercised save in dependence on a concession, authorization or jurisdictional delegation of the Sovereign Pontiff.[233] Something similar is the case with the sacrament of Penance; the priest has the physical power of administering it, but he cannot exercise it save in dependence on a moral condition—that is, if he has jurisdiction. It is therefore not surprising if we meet in the ease of the extraordinary minister of Confirmation and certain Orders what we come across in the case of the ordinary minister of Penance.

When the Council of Trent teaches that bishops have a power to confirm and ordain which they do not hold "in common with priests, "and that they exercise functions over which priests have "no power" we should understand this in the sense that in distinction from bishops priests have, for Confirmation and the conferring of certain Orders, an extraordinary power only, which is subject to limitation as far as its validity is concerned; they do not possess any ordinary power which is not subject to limitation and always unrestricted as far as its validity is concerned.

3. Does the distinction here proposed hold good in the line of order? It does, undoubtedly. The question is one of the valid exercise of the power of order, the physical power of confirming and ordaining. The fact that this physical power can be freely exercised in the case of the bishop and that it is limited in its exercise in the case of priests, in whom its exercise is subject to conditions, creates a difference between priest and bishop in the line of order itself.

If we are to say (which one hesitates to do) that a priest has not the physical power to ordain another priest, and that the bishop alone has this physical power, then the distinction between priests and bishops would certainly be more of a radical nature; it would involve not merely the exercise of the power of order but its nature as well.

5. Is The Distinction Between Priests And Bishops In The Line Of Order Of Divine Law Or Canon Law?

1. There are two theories to be considered:

A. That this distinction is, directly, of divine law. We are to suppose that Christ instituted unchangeably two degrees in the priesthood, either Himself or by way of His Apostles. There would thus be, first, a lower degree (the presbyterate) with the powers of consecrating the Eucharist and remitting sins, [234] and the powers—subject to limitation—of confirming and conferring certain Orders: and, second, the higher degree (the episcopate) with the ordinary powers—not subject to limitation—of confirming and ordaining. The episcopal powers for the consecration of virgins, of churches etc. are evidently of ecclesiastical institution.

B. That this distinction is directly of ecclesiastical law. We are to suppose that Christ conferred on all His ministers the fullness of the priesthood. Later, a decision of the Church divided the priesthood into two degrees. As a consequence, it is a canonical disposition alone that brings it about that the powers of confirming and ordaining are unequal in the episcopate and the presbyterate, being ordinary and not subject to limitation in the first case and extraordinary and subject to limitation in the second.

2. Is it possible to resolve the question by an appeal to history?

Lennerz, having assembled the texts concerning the origin of the distinction between the episcopate and the presbyterate, wrote as follows: "The difference between bishop and priest, and the superiority of the bishop over the priest, was admitted by all from the third century. Priests have the priesthood, but in its inferior degree; they do not possess pontifical dignity. This difference is to be located in the line of order and concerns the power to confirm and ordain. . . Is it a difference of divine law?"[235] He concludes: "The texts scarcely offer a sufficient foundation for answering with certitude the question, whether the difference between priest and bishop and the superiority of bishop over priest in the line of order, is instituted by Christ and of divine law."[236]

Thus two ways are left open; but they cannot, of course, both be right.

3. What is the theological state of the question?

The Fathers of the Council of Trent who held that bishops are superior to priests by divine law and asked that this should be defined, declared that the heresy of Aerius lay in affirming "that bishops are not superior to priests in divine law".[237] Laynez replied that "the heresy of Aerius was to claim that all priests are equal by divine law, which implied that the Popes have no power of jurisdiction superior to that of other priests."[238] They could have been answered more directly by saying that even if the difference between priests and bishops were of ecclesiastical law only, Aerius could have been a heretic simply in virtue of refusing to the Church the right of instituting a difference of this type.[239]

Those who see nothing more than a distinction of ecclesiastical law between bishops and priests cite St. Jerome, who invokes the Epistles of St. Paul, St. Peter and St. John to maintain that in the beginning the ecclesiastical hierarchy comprises two degrees only, priest-bishops and deacons; and that it was later on, in order to prevent schism, that it became necessary to set one priest-bishop before the rest in each region.[240]

The supporters of the distinction in divine law answer to the objections drawn from St. Paul that at the beginning the priesthood did in point of fact comprise two degrees, but that the names of priest and bishop were used for either. Theodoret, basing his position on Philippians ii. 25, thinks rather that St. Paul called apostles those whom we call bishops and bishops those whom we call priests.[241] In both cases we should find in St. Paul the hierarchy of three degrees, which appears so clearly in St. Ignatius of Antioch. It is perhaps possible to give a more general answer. St. Paul's intention from the start could have been only to create a hierarchy of order in three degrees—with a view to providing against the danger of schism, as St. Jerome was to say. The inferior degree is that of the deacons; the intermediary degree, that of the priest-bishops; while in the superior degree was the Apostle himself, who, to start with, organized his Churches like a vast diocese. But as the years passed and the field of his apostolate extended, he chose from among the priest-bishops successors like Timothy and Titus, to whom he reserved the actual rights of the pontificate. Thus, both in the thought of the Apostle and in divine law, his Churches, after a preparatory period in which the functions of the priest-bishops remain undifferentiated, were to move towards the unitary episcopate and an organization like that of the Churches of Jerusalem, Asia Minor and Rome. As for St. Jerome's opinion on the purely canonical origin of the difference between bishops and priests, this is no more than an exaggeration of emphasis. There had been a dispute at Rome between deacons and priests in which the first-mentioned claimed superiority over the second. This provoked a lively reaction from Ambrosiaster and St. Jerome, who, in his anxiety to emphasise the difference between deacon and priest, tended to make the latter equal to the bishop.[242]

Among the canonists of the period from the twelfth to the fifteenth century, several following Jerome were of the opinion that the distinction between bishops and priests is of ecclesiastical law; others held that it went back to the Apostles. Others again maintained that with delegation from the sovereign Pontiff each man can confer what he possesses—the ordained his Order and—according to some—the confirmed his confirmation.[243] The Scholastics were more cautious: the bishop is the ordinary minister of Confirmation and Order, and a simple priest may confirm and confer Minor Orders [244] if he has papal delegation. This was the teaching of the Council of Florence on Confirmation [245] and Orders.[246]

From the Middle Ages the thesis that there is a distinction of divine right in the line of order between bishops and priests seems to have prevailed. We have seen why the Council of Trent refused to define this, despite the pressure of certain of the Fathers. Nevertheless the Code of Canon Law seems to have taken it over when it says". . . in virtue of a divine institution, the sacred hierarchy comprises in the line of order bishops, priests and ministers. "This is the view which I would myself uphold.

6. The Question Of So-Called Reordinations

The answer given to the question of so-called "reordinations" will be greatly modified according as one adopts one or other of the theses concerning the distinction between bishops and priests in the line of order.

1. Let us briefly recall several facts. Leaving on one side the cases which are disputed at the historical level, we may reckon up five or six Popes who have proclaimed the nullity of ordinations made by anti-popes either in fact or presumption, schismatics, simoniacs, and have proceeded to fresh ordination. At the Roman Council of 769 Stephen III refused to recognize the ordinations of deacons, priests and bishops made by the usurper Constantine II and decided to reordain the bishops only.[247] John VIII (who nevertheless did not contest the validity of ordinations conferred by Photius at the time of his excommunication) [248] declared null the ordination conferred by the excommunicate Bishop Ansbert on the Bishop of Verceil, and this by a decision "without precedent in the history of the Popes".[249] Sergius III (904-11), following on the grim Council of Stephen VI, attacked the validity of the ordinations of Pope Formosus: "This was to pronounce a revision of ecclesiastical situations hitherto uncontested. As a result, doubt was cast on the validity of the most essential religious acts."[250] John XII of scandalous memory, dethroned by Leo VIII but reinstated for a brief period in 964, took advantage of the opportunity to declare null the ordinations of his rival.[251] St. Leo IX, in the course of his struggle against simoniacal ordinations, took a disconcerting decision; clerics ordained gratis by simoniacs were condemned to some penance and then allowed to exercise their Orders; ordinations made for money were for the most part considered as null, and repeated.[252] In 1088 Urban II reordained Daibert, who had been raised to the diaconate by the Archbishop of Mayence, who had been consecrated by schismatics.[253]

Side by side with this series of facts may be set another which stems from the origins of the Roman Church, [254] and is to be located with St. Augustine [255] and the great Scholastics [256 such as Anastasius II [257 and Pascal II [258. Those who follow this authentic tradition maintain that certain sacraments, Order among them, can be dispensed validly even by schismatics.

Here we must note two things: (1) In none of the cases of so-called "reordination" was there any thought of annulling (in the proper sense of the word), and then repeating, ordinations which should have been valid. It was simply declared that ordinations which had been considered as valid had not in fact been so, and then true ordinations took place. The traditional doctrine, according to which the sacrament of Order confers an ineffaceable character and thus cannot be repeated, was fully appreciated and never forgotten: (2) In the case of Ansbert, who was truly a bishop but excommunicate, and in the case of bishops ordained within the Church but afterwards fallen into schism or simony, there was no question of contesting the validity of their own Orders, but the validity of their exercise: in other words they were from that point onwards denied the right of conferring valid ordinations. How are these facts to be explained?

2. According to the first explanation, it will be remembered, bishops hold by divine law a power of confirming and ordaining which is proper to them. This power is ordinary, that is, not subject to limitation and always free from limitation. A heretical bishop, or a schismatic bishop, even one who is a simoniac or generally sinful, ordains illicitly but validly. Thus ordinations by such bishops ought not to be "repeated". In consequence those Popes would be right who refused to do it, and those wrong who countenanced it. The latter decision would be misleading even if taken in good faith, and much more so if under the influence of personal animosity. But we should also note that no erroneous dogmatic definition was made by the Popes concerned. The dogma of the ineffaceable quality of the sacramental character and the impossibility of repeating true ordination was always safeguarded.[259] The only disputed question would be whether the Sovereign Pontiff can control the power of validly conferring Orders in schismatic or excommunicate bishops. My own answer would be that he cannot, since the exercise of this power is of divine law. But those who hold that it is purely of canonical law would answer in the affirmative. At present the question is still open, from the dogmatic point of view.

It is surprising to see how many writers, basing themselves one on another, have spoken in this connection of an obscuring of the dogma in question. Baisi cites a number of them: Many, Chardon, Saltet, Tixeront, Michel. AS against them he maintains his own thesis, that the Popes concerned should never have done anything but go on to valid ordinations. Yet he himself fails to see that whatever the theory adopted—of ordinations sometimes invalidly repeated, or ordinations valid all the time—to speak of an obscuring of dogma in this dubious question of reordinations is completely to distort the theological perspective of the matter.[260]

3. According to the second explanation bishops hold the ordinary power of confirming and ordaining which is proper to them, by simple canon law, and the Sovereign Pontiff can bind or loose this power at will. Hence, there seems to be no difficulty in explaining the conduct of the Popes. The Popes concerned could proclaim the nullity of ordinations and concern themselves with eventually making them valid inasmuch as, and during the period when, they had decided to limit as to validity the power of schismatic or excommunicate bishops—either of all schismatic bishops or those only who had been ordained by schismatics, either all simoniac bishops or only those in turn ordaining for money. This is the solution put forward by Baisi, among others.[261] At first sight it seems to clear up everything, but further consideration reveals it as not very helpful and itself the source of new problems. It does not explain how John VIII was able to recognize the validity of ordinations conferred by one excommunicate (Photius) and deny the validity of those conferred by another (Ansbert). It does not justify Pope Sergius III in denying the validity of ordinations conferred by another Pope, that is, Formosus. When concerned to pronounce upon the validity of Anglican ordinations the Popes, from Julius III to Leo XIII, have been interested in one point only: were these ordinations carried out according to the Catholic rite? The question of the possible invalidity of an ordination carried out according to the Catholic rite by a schismatical or heretical bishop did not enter their minds.[262] And finally, if the Popes were able (at the time of the schism of Michael Caerularius, for instance) to bind, even tacitly and for a time—in accordance with views said to have been those "of the large majority of the bishops and the ordinary magisterium"—the ordaining power of the orthodox bishops, what guarantee have we of the validity of ordinations in the Orthodox Church, a point today contested by none?

4. Thus, in my opinion, the theory which is imposed on any theologian who tries to elucidate the question of so-called reordinations is that of the Code of Canon Law—that which maintains that bishops differ from priests in the line of order by divine law.

7. Two Bulls Authorizing Simple Priests To Confer The Priesthood

1. The Council of Trent defined that bishops have a power of confirming and ordaining which they do not hold in common with priests.

The power of bishops is in fact ordinary, not subject to limitation and in fact always unlimited, while that of priests is extraordinary and always subject to limitation. It seems to me that this difference, which concerns the exercise of the power of order, is not of ecclesiastical law alone but also of divine law.

A simple priest possesses, then, in its limited state, the physical radical power of conferring certain Orders. The question is, which? Minor Orders and the subdiaconate, without doubt. But should we also add the diaconate and the priesthood? If the answer be no, this implies an even greater difference between priests and bishops; it concerns not only the exercise but also the nature of their powers of order. If the answer be yes, then the difference between priests and bishops in the line of order will concern solely the exercise of their powers of order, though it will still be of divine law.

2. As I have said, several medieval canonists admitted that each man could confer the Order which he had himself, provided he had a delegation from the Sovereign Pontiff; a deacon could confer the diaconate and a priest the priesthood.[263] But the large majority of theologians rejected a principle as general as this and denied to the priest the radical power of conferring even the diaconate, much more the priesthood. Today, however, there has been a change of opinion, and an ever-increasing number of theologians are of the opinion, not indeed that a deacon can confer the diaconate, but that a priest can, with a delegation from the Sovereign Pontiff, confer the priesthood. What is the justification for this change of view? Before all else, it consists in the elucidation of three important pontifical documents.

3. The most recent Bull among these documents, that of Innocent VIII of g April 1489, had been known for a long time past. In it the Pope grants to the Abbot of Citeaux (for the whole Cistercian Order) and to the Abbots of La Ferte, Pontigny, Clairvaux and Merimont (for their respective abbeys) and to the successors of all these, the power of themselves conferring the subdiaconate and diaconate on their monks. This Bull, which cannot today be located in the pontifical archives, but whose authenticity seems beyond doubt, was published as from 1491. It alone was enough to decide certain theologians that the diaconate should be included in the Orders which a priest can confer by means of a delegation from the Sovereign Pontiff.

In 1924 was published the Bull, hitherto unknown, by which Boniface IX (1 Feb. 1400) authorised the Augustinian Abbot of St. Osyth, in Essex, and his successors, to raise his subjects not only to the subdiaconate and the diaconate but even to the priesthood. It is true that on the 6th February 1403 the Pope revoked this Bull, but this was purely to fall in with the wishes of the Bishop of London, who maintained that there had been an infringement of his right of patronage over the abbey.[264]

Finally, in 1943 there was published a Bull of Martin V (16 Nov. 1427) conceding to the Cistercian Abbot of Altezelle in the diocese of Meissen, over a period of five years, the power of conferring on all his monks, without the previous authorization of the local bishop, all Orders including Major Orders, "omnes etiam sacros ordines."[265]

4. Before recognizing authentic theological loci in these documents disinterred by the historians, several contemporary theologians proposed varying interpretations of them. It was said, for example, that the pontifical privileges envisaged exemptions only—that is to say, that they accorded to the abbots concerned not the unheard-of power of conferring Major Orders by themselves, but that of having them conferred by a bishop of their own choice, independently of the local bishop; [266] or again, that these abbots might have had the episcopal character; or that the Bull of Boniface IX, since it was withdrawn by the same Pope, had only a limited scope and may be set aside: [267] and so on.

It seems, more and more, as if these interpretations should be abandoned. Here are Lennerz's conclusions, [268] with which I myself agree:

"We now know two Bulls, one of Boniface IX, the other of Martin V, conferring on a simple priest the power of ordaining deacons and priests; and a third Bull, that of Innocent VIII, conferring the power of ordaining deacons. There is no doubt at all as to the authenticity of the first two Bulls. But even Innocent VIII's Bull cannot today be held as seriously suspect, and it is certain that the Cistercian abbots availed themselves for centuries of the privilege which had been granted to them. And the terms of the Bulls are clear; it is indeed a case of the conferring of Orders.

"Thus three Popes have authorised a simple priest to confer either the diaconate, or the diaconate and the priesthood. Hence it would seem that we must conclude that a priest, given a delegation from the Sovereign Pontiff, can be the minister of these Orders. It could not be maintained that these three Popes have erred in a matter as serious as that of the minister of the sacrament of Order. As long as the Bull of Innocent VIII, the authenticity of which was not moreover clear, was the only one known to theologians, it is understandable that they should have hesitated to recognize in the Sovereign Pontiff the right to concede a privilege of this order to a simple priest. Today we know that three Popes did it; and therefore they were really empowered to do it. 

"To sum up: Sovereign Pontiffs have conceded this privilege to simple priests. Thus they can so concede it. And thus a simple priest can, given a delegation from the Sovereign Pontiff, be the minister of the Orders of the diaconate and the priesthood."

5. I would thus maintain both that: (1) a priest delegated by the Sovereign Pontiff can confer the priesthood: (2) nevertheless the difference between bishops and priests is of divine law.[269]

Priests have the physical power of confirming and ordaining. The valid exercise of this power depends, as far as they are concerned, on a moral condition, that is, a concession of the Sovereign Pontiff. It is indeed in the line of order—in what concerns the valid exercise of their power to confirm and ordain—that priests are inferior to bishops. But it is, on the contrary, by a purely jurisdictional act that the Sovereign Pontiff limits their power of ordaining and confirming. When the priest is released by the Pope from limitation, he acts in the line of order; in thus freeing him from limitation, the Pope acts in the line of jurisdiction.

6. Here again we come across the distinction which recognizes in the Church, by divine law, two sorts of powers, those of order and those of jurisdiction. I do not think there is any need to go beyond this distinction, which is embedded deep in tradition, in order to attribute to the Sovereign Pontiff "a certain power of making valid doubtful sacraments "by which he could, for example," declare valid a baptism administered with wine."[270]

The distinction between what is of divine law and unalterable, and what is of ecclesiastical law and changeable, is also traditional. Moreover, it is certain that canonical institutions, which are a result of the Church's prudence, are not all changeable in an equal degree. The historian is impelled, and legitimately so, to divide them into different categories according to the degree of their importance and their stability. All the more, therefore, is it impossible, from the logical point of view, to postulate a tertium quid, which could not be classified under either divine law or canonical law.[271]

8. Three Orders Of Divine Law, And Sacraments: The Episcopate, The Presbyterate And The Diaconate

1. We may recall the words of the Code of Canon Law (can. 108, 3): "By virtue of a divine institution, the sacred hierarchy comprises in the line of order bishops, priests and ministers". We have sufficiently discussed the episcopate and the presbyterate. Theologians consider it as a commonly held and certain thesis that the diaconate also is a sacrament.[272]

Cajetan is sometimes cited as if he were of the contrary opinion.[273] It is true that he thought that the "deacons of the table "mentioned in Acts vi. 2-6 should be distinguished from the "deacons of the altar". And to this it might be replied that we see the "deacons of the table "preaching in the case of Stephen (Acts vii) and baptizing in the case of Philip (viii. 12). But Cajetan immediately adds "Although the deacons of the altar were not instituted in this instance, it seems nevertheless that they were instituted by the Apostles, although we know neither the time nor the place. In point of fact Paul mentions bishops and deacons (Phil. i. I); and in I Tim. iii. 1-10 he describes in succession the duties of bishops and those of deacons. Now these two Churches—that of the Philippians and that of Ephesus—to which Timothy belonged, were Churches of the Gentiles, in which it does not appear that Christians lived in common, as they did at Jerusalem. And thus they had no need of deacons to occupy themselves with the serving of tables and with widows. Their deacons must therefore have been deacons of the altar. . . The Apostles appear to have ordained deacons, not, as now, by saying "Receive the power of reading the Gospel" but by the imposition of hands."[274]

2. The primitive and apostolic rite of ordination is the imposition of hands. The rite of the proffering of the instruments, which symbolized the power accorded by the various Orders, was added in the West as from the high Middle Ages. As to the question of whether it was an adventitious rite, or an essential rite which relegated became the imposition of hands to a secondary place, opinions are divided.

It is admitted by all that the seven sacraments were instituted by Christ and that the Church cannot, as to their administration, modify anything save that which leaves their substance intact—"salva illorum substantia" (Council of Trent, Session VII, De Sacramentis in Genere, can. I; Session XXI, cap. 2: Denz. 844 and 931).

In his Apostolic Constitution on the Holy Orders of the Diaconate, Presbyterate and Episcopate, [275] 30 November 1947, His Holiness Pope Pius XII recalls these points in the process of setting out clearly what is the substance of the sacraments: "The Church has no power over the substance of the sacraments, that is, over what Christ Our Lord Himself wished should be kept permanent in the sacramental sign, as the sources of divine revelation witness" (no. I). This is the point at which there begins the divergence of opinion between theologians.

Some conclude that the Church can change nothing in either the form or the matter of any of the sacraments. Hence, the proffering of the instruments can never have been anything more than an adventitious rite. The difficulty here is that the Council of Florence, explaining in the Decreta Pro Armenis what it calls the "truth of the sacraments", [276] declares that "the sixth sacrament is that of Order, the matter of which is the giving of the object which confers the Order: the presbyterate being conferred by the giving of the chalice with the wine and the paten with the bread, the diaconate by the giving of the Gospels. . . etc. And this is the form of the priesthood: Receive the power of offering the sacrifice in the Church for the living and for the dead, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."[277] It has been suggested in answer that this is not a conciliar document proper, that it was only an instruction intended for the teaching of the Armenians on the discipline and liturgy of the Latin Church, and so on. But a closer examination of the question has impelled theologians like Cardinal van Possum to recognize the doctrinal character of the decree. In consequence the only further way left open is to maintain that since it does not have the form of a definition of faith properly so-called, the doctrinal teaching of the Council of Florence is erroneous.[278]

Other theologians distinguish in the sacraments of the New Law the signification which represents its most formal part, and the sign, which is composed of matter and form, things and words.[279] Christ Himself instituted all the sacramental signs of the New Law. Where certain of these signs are concerned, He wishes to determine them not only as to their signification but also as to the sign itself; thus, in the case of Baptism. In the case of the other sacramental signs, He determined them as to their signification, leaving to His Church and the jurisdictional power infallibly assisted the faculty of determining in greater detail the matter and form of the sign, according to the needs of time and place. Otherwise we cannot explain how the anointing with chrism has become, in both East and West, the essential rite of the sacrament of Confirmation, and that the form of the sacrament of Penance has been, successively, deprecative and then indicative. The same holds good in the case of the sacrament of Order; the signification has always remained constant, and has always manifested a transmission of the powers of celebrating the cultus, but the sign in which it has been expressed has changed in the West, the tradition of the instruments having been substituted for the imposition of hands. This is the explanation which I myself would adopt. It allows us to hold that the Council of Florence was not in error; yet there is nothing to prevent the Church from making valid once more the rite of the imposition of hands. And this was to be done by His Holiness Pope Pius XII in his Apostolic Constitution of 30 November 1947.

3. The Constitution first takes up the discontinuing of the rite of the imposition of hands, but without condemning the second of the explanations just proposed: "It is known to all that the Roman Church has always held as valid the ordinations made in the Greek rite without the tradition of the instruments. More; the Church has desired that even at Rome the Greeks should be ordained according to their own rite. From this it follows that even in the thought of the Council of Florence, it was not in virtue of a choice of Christ Our Lord that the tradition of the instruments was necessary to the substance and the validity of the sacrament. If the will and precept of the Church have, for a time, made it necessary to the very validity of ordinations, yet it is still known to all that the Church can change and abrogate what she has established," (no. 4). A little further on we read "We declare and—in that case where the legitimate authority would in the past have arranged matters differently—we decide that the tradition of the instruments is not, for the future at any rate, necessary to the validity of the Holy Orders of the Diaconate, Presbyterate and Episcopate"(no. 5).

His Holiness then lays down what are to be henceforward the matter and form of Holy Orders: "In virtue of our supreme apostolic authority and after due consideration we declare and where necessary decree and institute what follows: the matter, and only matter, of the Holy Orders of the diaconate, presbyterate and episcopate is the imposition of hands, and similarly the sole form is the words which determine the application of this matter and which signify in a univocal fashion the sacramental effects—that is to say the power of order and the grace of the Holy Spirit, together with the sense which these words possess in the thought and usage of the Church" (no. 4). "For ordination to the diaconate the matter is the imposition of the hands of the bishop solely as envisaged in the rite of this ordination. The form consists of the words of the Preface, of which the following are essential and in consequence required for validity: "Pour down upon him, we pray You, O Lord, the Holy Spirit, that He may fortify him with the seven gifts of Your grace and enable him to acquit himself faithfully in the work of Your ministry." For ordination to the priesthood, the matter is the first imposition of the hands of the bishop carried out in silence but not the continuation of this imposition where the right hand is extended nor the last imposition accompanied by the words "Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall remit," etc. The form consists of the words of the Preface, of which the following are essential and in consequence required for validity: "We pray You, almighty Father, give to Your servant here present the dignity of the priesthood; renew in his heart the spirit of sanctity, that he may acquit himself of the charge of the second hierarchical degree which You entrust to him, and that the example of his life may be to the amendment of men's ways." Finally, for the ordination or consecration of the episcopate, the matter is the imposition of hands made by the consecrating bishop. The form consists of the words of the Preface, of which the following are essential and in consequence required for validity: "Give to Your priest the fullness of Your ministry, and sanctify by the dew of celestial unction him whom You have decked with the ornaments of the supreme honour" (no. 5).

4. Henceforward as a result of the decision of His Holiness, the difference between the Latin rite and the Oriental rite is abolished. In virtue of this there is a strengthening of the link which unites the dissident Orthodox Church to the Catholic Church.

The form of ordination to the priesthood is thus now "We pray You, almighty Father, give to Your servant here present the dignity of the priesthood; renew in his heart the spirit of sanctity, that he may acquit himself of the charge of the second hierarchical degree which You entrust to him, and that the example of his life may be to the amendment of men's ways". It would appear to approximate to the present Anglican form of ordination. But in his Apostolic Letter of 13 September 1896, after having noted that the imposition of hands is a rite as yet undetermined, employed both for Holy Orders and for Confirmation, Leo XIII added "Up to the present the majority of Anglicans have regarded as the proper form of ordination to the priesthood the words "Receive the Holy Spirit." But they are far from signifying precisely the Order of the priesthood, its grace and the power it confers, that is to say, the power of consecrating and offering the true Body and true Blood of the Lord, by a sacrifice that is something other than a pure commemoration of the sacrifice accomplished on the cross. It is true that there were later added to this formula the words "For the office and charge of the priesthood". But this is in itself a proof that the Anglicans themselves considered this form as defective and not satisfactory. And even if this addition could have given to the formula the required signification, it came too late; for a century had already passed since the adoption of the Ordinal of Edward, and, since the hierarchy had lapsed, the power to ordain no longer existed."

9. Are The Subdiaconate And The Minor Orders Now No More Than Sacramentals?

1. What is to be said about the subdiaconate and the Minor Orders? They are evidently of ecclesiastical institution. St. Thomas says that in the primitive Church the powers of the subdiaconate and the Minor Orders "existed as it were enfolded within the powers of the deaconal one [implicite in una diaconi potestate]. But later, with the development of the divine cultus, the Church divided explicitly into several orders what she possessed implicitly in the diaconate. Hence Peter Lombard's words concerning the Church, who institutes certain orders for herself."[280]

2. Should we regard them as sacraments? St. Thomas is of this opinion: "The distinction of Orders is neither that of an integral whole into its parts nor that of a universal whole into its multiple subjects, but that of a whole of potency the nature of which is to exist as to its fullness in one subject only and in other subjects according to some participation. This is so in the case of Order: the fullness of the sacrament exists in the Order of the priesthood only but we find elsewhere a certain participation in Order. . . Thus all the Orders form one single sacrament."[281] It is true that St. Thomas is here speaking directly of the two Orders of the priesthood and the diaconate only. But a little further on, comparing the Major and Minor Orders, he declares that "all Order may be called holy because it is a sacrament."[282] This would appear to be the teaching of the Council of Florence which sees in the tradition of the instruments and the appropriate words the matter and form of the presbyterate, the diaconate and the subdiaconate and other Orders.[283]

The opinion that the subdiaconate and the other Minor Orders are sacraments was considered by Billuart to be more generally held and more probable.[284] Should we, on the contrary, regard the subdiaconate and Minor Orders as sacramentals? Cajetan was of this opinion. He concluded, from the diversity of the Minor Orders in the ancient sacramentaries, that "these Orders appear to be sacramentals rather than sacraments."[285] This opinion is the more widely held today.[286]

3. I shall here adopt the last-mentioned opinion. It seems to me that His Holiness Pope Pius XII has, by giving the primitive rite of the imposition of hands an essential and exclusive role in ordination, ipso facto reduced to the rank of simple sacramentals the subdiaconate and Minor Orders which are given without the imposition of hands.

10. Conclusion

The progress of historical studies allows us to distinguish in greater detail what is of divine law and unchangeable in the action of the Church and what is of ecclesiastical law and changeable.

Many of the Church's forms and reforms can be explained by the varying needs of time and place. But underlying these modifications, greater or less, are the permanent axes of the Church, the stable and divine privileges with which Christ wished to endow her so that she might be the continuator of His priesthood, royalty and sanctity. Thus, when the Church is in question, the historical explanation, which arises from the varying needs of time and place, is never the ultimate explanation. It must always end by giving place to the ontological explanation, which derives from the structure and divine life of the Body and Bride of Christ, with her power of salvation and conformation to Christ.


1. The Origin Of The Jurisdictional Power

1. Christ Head Of The Church, At Once Priest And King: His Conferring Of Two Powers On The Church, The One Sacramental, The Other Jurisdictional

1. Jesus Christ was predestined to be, as St. Paul loved to say, the Head of the whole Church.[287] This revelation of the Apostle is enough in itself to establish the supreme principle of the distinction between the sacramental and the jurisdictional powers. As the head has its twofold action on the body—an interior motor action (the chief impulsions start from the brain), and an exterior directive action (our steps are regulated by information coming through the senses)—so Christ exerts a twofold action on the members of His Church.

a. On the one hand, by an influence that is hidden and propulsive, He sends mysterious ontological riches into the very depths of souls. This secret and propulsive influence can, as we have noted above, be distinguished into one coming from Christ as Priest, communicating the three sacramental characters, the three sacramental powers; and another coming from Christ as Saviour, communicating the living sap of redemptive grace. Thus used the titles of Priest and Saviour are distinguished. But they can be taken together and opposed to the title of King: Christ is Priest-Saviour and He is King.

b. On the other hand, He proposes from without two sorts of proposition. The first are speculative propositions to be believed: "And forthwith upon the Sabbath days going into the synagogue, he taught them. And they were astonished at his doctrine. For he was teaching them as one having power, and not as the scribes" (Mark 1. 21-22); "All things are delivered to me by my Father. And no one knoweth the Son, but the Father: neither doth any know the Father, but the Son and he to whom it shall please the Son to reveal him" (Matt. xi. 27); "Have I been so long a time with you, and you have not known me? Philip, he that seeth me, seeth the Father also. How sayest thou, shew us the Father? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in me?" (John xiv. 9-10); "And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just into life everlasting" (Matt. xxv. 46); "For this is my blood of the new testament which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins" (Matt. xxvi. 28). The second are practical propositions to be put into execution: "Do penance: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. iii. 2); "Go, sell whatsoever thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me" (Mark x. 21); "Whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matt. v. 28); "Enter ye in at the narrow gate. . ." (Matt. vii. 13). In both sorts we see the role of Christ the King. In virtue of His spiritual kingship.[288] He declares not only what is to be done, but what is to be believed—a thing which, coming from a political power, would be intolerable; and He declares not merely simple and natural things, but baffling and supernatural things: the Trinity, the redemptive Incarnation, the Eucharist, poverty, obedience, chastity: "I confess to thee O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to little ones" (Matt. xi. 25). To spiritual kingship, thus understood, prophecy is to be referred. For if the prophet is, as the moderns put it, one who announces divine revelations to men, Christ is sovereign Prophet, and His prophetic title is identical with His royal title. But if the prophet is, as the ancients preferred to say, one who, an exile among men, announces things to come or things far off, Christ was Prophet only during the time that led up to His Passion [289] and prophecy is a much more restricted privilege than spiritual kingship.

2. Does the Church in no way share in this priesthood and this kingship of Christ?

a. In virtue of His redemptive priesthood Christ is the Saviour of mankind. In the days of His mortal life all the graces of salvation, coming from the heart of God, were united in His heart before being shared out, grace by grace, to all men, to strangers of the Gentiles and to those around Him of His own nation. For Christ was to act in two ways: from a distance upon those afar off, and by sensible contact upon those at hand. The normal purpose of His action from afar was to prepare the way for the graces of Incorporation, and ultimately to preserve these graces in souls; its exceptional purpose, to supply in a certain measure for their absence. But His action by contact was still more admirable: for thereby He gave to men those graces of incorporation which were to conform them to Himself in the most marvellous, the most intimate way, a way of the utmost perfection; types of these are to be found in the grace given to "the disciple whom Jesus loved "when he reclined on His breast, and the grace of Our Lady touched by the Word made flesh.

Now comes the great question: was all sensible contact with Our Lord broken on the day of the Ascension? Did action by contact, with all the hitherto unknown privileges that it brought into the world, then disappear, leaving only action from a distance?

We have the answer already. When He left the world, Christ, the priest par excellence, left behind Him a visible hierarchy endowed with a sacramental power, which is a ministerial participation of His sacerdotal power, a hierarchy with which the faithful can have sensible contact and which He uses as an instrument to fill their hearts with sacramental graces from heaven; the perfect Christian graces, that are to form the Church which is His Body.

b. Similarly, in virtue of His kingship Christ is the Doctor, Teacher, and Master of all men. In the days of His mortal life all the graces of light, coming from the Divinity, were united in His intelligence before being scattered among all men to illumine and enlighten them; whether they lived at the ends of the world or close around Him in His own land. For here also He was to act in two ways: He taught as from a distance only those who were far off, and He taught those around Him by sensible contact. The normal purpose of His teaching from a distance was to prepare minds to receive the full and fully explicit revelation, and, ultimately, to bring it back to their minds; its exceptional purpose was to supply in a certain measure for its absence by indicating the road to salvation. But it was through a teaching imparted by contact that the Gospel was announced to men: "For I say to you, many prophets and just men have desired. . . to hear the things that you hear and have not heard them" (Matt. xiii. I 7); "How shall they believe him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they be sent?" (Rom. x. 14-15).

Once more then comes the great question: was this contact viva voce, through living speech, to be cut short at the Ascension? Did Christ, after three years of direct preaching, cease thereafter to teach the truth in any outward manner?

He gave the answer Himself when He sent the Eleven to the ends of the earth, till the end of time, promising to be with them in the work of teaching all that had been revealed to them, and giving them thereby a jurisdictional power of an altogether special nature, since it is a ministerial participation in His royal power.[290]

Thus, whereas the end of the sacramental power is to penetrate into the soul and introduce mysterious ontological riches, the end of the jurisdictional power is to influence the soul by proposing divine truths from without, that is to say by teaching, oral or written.

2. The Sacramental Power "Pure Instrument," But The Jurisdictional "Second Cause"

1. Jesus is Priest as none other is priest. There is only one redemptive sacrifice: His own. There is but one fountain of grace: His transpierced heart. As far as the sacerdotal and redemptive power is concerned, the power that obtains and dispenses grace, there is not in all the Church any other head, any other ruler, any other source, any other cause, save only Him.[291]

When the time of His visible presence among us was ended, He abandoned no part of this role. Nor did He wish to deprive us of His sanctifying contact. He availed Himself of mortal priests through whom He might carry out the acts of the Christian cultus, like an artisan using tools that need constant renewal. But it was He alone, and none other, who, through them, was to bring about the presence among us of the sacrificial intercession of the cross; He alone who, through them, was to baptize and absolve. His sacerdotal and sanctifying action was to pass through them independently of their moral worthiness or unworthiness, and to do so infallibly, for—and this is true above all on the supernatural plane—an instrument does not act by its own proper virtue, but by the virtue of him who uses it. The ministers of the sacraments, their sacerdotal power, and the sacraments themselves, are in fact no more than purely external instruments, mere transmitters of impulsions coming from Christ Himself, which, in souls made ready for them, blossom into graces.

The priesthood of Christ is thus participated in the Church only in a purely instrumental manner.

2. It is not quite the same with His kingship. We have just said that Jesus is Priest as none other is priest. We must also say that Jesus is King as none other is king. He rules angels and men. God "raised him up from the dead, and set him on his right hand in the heavenly places, above all principality and power, and virtue and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. And he hath subjected all things under his feet, and hath made him head over all the church, which is his body" (Eph. 1. 20-23). He said Himself "All power is given to me in heaven and in earth" (Matt. xxviii. 18). At the Transfiguration a voice from the cloud demanded that He should be obeyed: "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him" (Matt. xvii. 5). He has authority to teach infallibly what is to be believed and what is to be done: "I am the light of the world. He that followeth me walketh not in darkness" (John viii. I 2). He reigns by His own virtue and not by delegation; and His kingdom is the Church, not of one country only but of all, not of one age only but of all, not the Church militant only but also the Church suffering and triumphant.

Jesus is the fountain-head of a universal kingship, and He never ceases to exercise it from heaven where He sits at the right hand of the Father. And yet, so that men might not be deprived of the help His living voice had brought them, He has in His mercy left them a visible power, continuing to speak with authority in His name—the power of jurisdiction. The Father had said: "This is my beloved Son; hear him" (Luke ix. 35); and Our Lord was to say in His turn: "He that heareth you, heareth me: and he that despiseth you, despiseth me. And he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me" (Luke x. 16). His kingship was thus to be participated. But not in quite the same way as His priesthood.

To force open the door of the soul and then to pour grace into it, is possible to none but God; and creatures therefore can here avail only as instruments in His hand, and for ends beyond their scope. But to propose to minds a speculative or practical message from without, even were this message of divine origin, is a work which seems more connatural to men, and one in which they can have a greater share in the initiative. The interior influx of grace, remarks St. Thomas, [292] cannot be transmitted save by instruments, and, in this matter, Christ alone can be Head of the Church: as God, evidently; and even as Man in this sense, that He possesses in a perfect way all the graces which, as instrument of the divine omnipotence, He communicates to other men. On the contrary, the "exterior government of the Church", the "authority" over the Church, the "pastoral power" over the Church, the dignity of being a "foundation" of the Church—all that can be communicated to others. They too can be called heads of the Church, though not as Christ is called Head. For Christ is Head and Foundation of the Church in an unique way, in His quality as Principle, or, to put it another way, universally and by His own proper virtue; whereas they are heads and foundations in a dependent and secondary manner—that is, not universally but only of the Church immersed in history, or only for some few years like the Pope, or for some small area like the bishops; and this not by their own virtue but in their quality as ambassadors of Christ: "For Christ therefore we are ambassadors, God as it were exhorting by us" (2 Cor. v. 20). To be "Head" of the Church, to be "Shepherd", to be "Ruler", belongs primarily to Christ (John x. 11), and then to His Apostles and their successors (John xxi. 17; Acts xx. 28; Heb. xiii. 17). To be a "Foundation" of the Church also belongs to Christ (1 Cor. iii. 11) and to His Apostles (Matt. xvi. 18; Eph. ii. 20; Apoc. xxi. 14)—but to Christ as having the principal and universal authority, and to the Apostles as having a secondary and limited authority. These testimonies are perfectly clear, and no heresy can eliminate them from the Scriptures.

Consequently, the depositaries of the jurisdiction act as second causes rather than as mere transmitters. They have certain initiatives and certain responsibilities.[293] The drawback of giving men such a privilege is that in proportion to the importance of their office their natural fallibility will threaten to invade the government of the Church. Hence, so that the Church may be directed by them and not misled, so that it may continue to be the salt of the earth, and not be reabsorbed into the world, it needs the help of a particular providence, a prophetic gift, Christ's assistance: "Go therefore, teach ye all nations. . . teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world" (Matt. xxxiii. 19-20).

Christ is the Head, the Ruler, the Foundation of the Church as Priest-Saviour and as King. As Priest-Saviour He is so to the exclusion of all others, and men are never in this respect anything but instruments, mere transmitters. As King, He is so in participation with others whom in His love He makes His associates. But in Him the title is primary, universal, permanent; in the others it is derived, restricted and temporary.



The spiritual kingship in which Our Lord has called His Apostles and their successors to a share, may be called apostolic authority, pastoral power, or power of jurisdiction. In the very first days of the Church it took on, simultaneously, two forms—the one extraordinary, temporary, the other ordinary and permanent. Why was this?

1. The Reason For This Division

1. Christ, who delivered Himself up for His Church, willed to found her with His own hands. Just as He had Himself directly given her the sacraments that brought her life, so He Himself directly set up the fundamental and enduring constitution according to which she would have to rule souls by His authority and lead souls towards Him. There we have the permanent power of jurisdiction.

But this Church whose essential parts are the direct work of Christ, had to be launched on the world, to be given a first impulsion, a first momentum, which was to carry her down the ages. Jesus willed that this impulsion should come from the Church herself, to her from her first leaders.

The man of genius who founds a science, an art, or a civilisation, imparts to his work an impetus that often carries it on for centuries. Christ did not do less for His Church. Those who first had to introduce her to the nations were animated by a spirit strong enough to impart to her the rhythm and orientation she was to retain through the ages. No one can be without wonder at the spell cast over men's minds by a St. John or a St. Paul. The greatest intelligences have been nourished on them: an Augustine in the days of the Empire, a Thomas Aquinas in the Middle Ages. Today they shine as brightly as ever, and their minds will shape Christendoms to come. We must recognize that in this sense they were associated with Our Lord in the work of founding His Church. There we have the origin of the extraordinary power of jurisdiction.

2. This distinction between the extraordinary and the permanent jurisdiction is attested by a double fact. On the one hand it seems absolutely certain that the Apostles had privileged powers which were to cease with them: the power, for instance, of communicating new revelations or of writing inspired books. On the other hand it seems absolutely certain that the Apostles were the first depositaries of a power to teach the nations, a power that was to pass to their successors and to be perpetuated till the end of time.[294] Consequently, there are two ways in which the Church is said to be apostolic: first because the Apostles, in virtue of their extraordinary powers, founded her and gave her the first impulsion, the first orientation; and next because the Apostles bequeathed her their ordinary powers.

But we can restrict the meaning of the word "apostolate" taken substantively [295] so as to make it signify exclusively the extraordinary jurisdictional powers which the Apostles held as founders of the Church.[296] From this standpoint, which I adopt here for brevity's sake, "the apostolate" will mean the extraordinary jurisdiction alone. As opposed to that, the permanent jurisdiction could be called "the pontificate" or "pastorate".[297] It comprises two degrees: the sovereign pontificate or Papacy, and the dependent pontificate or episcopate.

The apostolate and the pontificate are therefore distinct in the first place as having different ends, the first being needed for the foundation and the second for the preservation of the Church. They are further distinguished, as we can foresee, by the different form taken by the assistance, the divine aid, that Our Lord promised His envoys in the world.

2. The Two Jurisdictions United In The Apostles

1. The pontificate, which is permanent, and the apostolate, which is temporary, were, for a time, united in the same persons. Both, as we shall see, were directly conferred by Jesus on His Disciples.

To Peter, Jesus gave the supreme pontificate, the supreme pastorate, over all the sheep of the fold. From Peter, in whom it resided in its highest form, it would have been normal for the pontificate to descend into the body of the Church in a derived form, that of the episcopate. But God, anticipating on the operation of His own laws, can produce immediately what, in the regular course of things, would come about as a normal consequence; for instance He might create a tree already laden with fruit. So it was that Christ acted with the Apostles. He conferred on the Apostles the episcopal power of jurisdiction which, normally, should descend to them from Peter whose sheep they were. He conferred the apostolate on the Twelve directly, and not through Peter. "And it came to pass in those days that he went out into a mountain to pray, and he passed the whole night in the prayer of God. And when day was come, he called unto him his disciples; and he chose twelve of them whom also he named Apostles" (Luke vi. 12-13). Now this apostolate would necessarily carry with it, as soon to be exercised, both the episcopal power of jurisdiction and the episcopal power of order.

Thus, then, Jesus gave directly to Peter the supreme pontificate or Papacy, and to the other Apostles the dependent pontificate or episcopate. Furthermore, He gave directly to the Twelve the privilege of the apostolate. In the first days of the Church, on the morrow of Pentecost, the permanent jurisdiction existed therefore whole and entire; but it was hidden as it were within the extraordinary jurisdiction; somewhat as a flower, already preformed, remains protected and hidden for a time in the enveloping folds of its calyx.

All the Twelve had the apostolate—their untransmissible privilege. Peter had the Papacy besides, and the others the episcopate—their transmissible dignity.[298] St. John, St. James and St. Paul, for example, considered as Apostles—that is, as having power over the universal Church for its foundation—could not have successors, for the Church could not be founded twice. But considered as bishops, that is as simply possessing the plenitude of the power of order, and, in dependence on Peter, jurisdiction over a particular portion of the Church, they could have successors. Should these successors separate themselves from Peter they might indeed, by sacramental transmission, retain the fullness of the power of order. But they would at once lose the sole jurisdiction the Apostles could communicate—that is to say a jurisdiction to be exercised in dependence on that of Peter—and in this respect it would be of little use to them to occupy a see once founded by the Apostles, or to be, in virtue of mere historical continuity, the Apostles' successors.

2. No one who grasps this distinction between extraordinary and permanent jurisdiction will have any difficulty in reconciling various passages of Scripture which might otherwise seem contradictory.

For example, Scripture represents the mission of the Apostles as extraordinary and temporary, but also as permanent and enduring. It was extraordinary because (a) the Apostles could speak, and had to speak, as ocular witnesses to the life and Resurrection of Christ: "Wherefore," said St. Peter, before the election of Matthias," of these men who have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus came in and went out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day wherein he was taken up from us, one of these must be made a witness with us of his resurrection" (Acts 1. 21-22): it is as "eyewitnesses of his greatness" that Peter and the Apostles made known the power and coming of Our Lord, who "received from God the Father honour and glory, this voice coming down to him from the excellent glory: This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. And this voice we heard brought from heaven when we were with him in the holy mount" (2 Pet. 1. 17-18).[299] And St. John was to write: "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the word of life. . . We do bear witness and declare unto you" (1 John 1. 1-2). Again their mission was extraordinary because (b) in Scripture the Twelve are called, along with Christ, the foundations of the Church: "You are. . . built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone" (Eph. ii. 20); "And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (Apoc. xxi. 14). And yet the mission of the Apostles was permanent since they had lasting tasks to perform. This is equally true of the Apostles taken collectively—" Going therefore, teach ye all nations. . . And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world" (Matt. xxviii. 19-20)—as it is of Peter, chosen from amongst them all to feed Christ's sheep visibly (John xxi. 17). Once you admit the two-fold jurisdiction of the Apostles everything becomes clear.

Take another example. Scripture represents Peter at once as the superior and as the equal of the other Apostles. Superior, since he had to feed all the sheep of the flock; equal, since Paul at Antioch withstood him to his face (Gal. ii. II). The foregoing distinction removes the difficulty. Peter was superior to the other Apostles on the plane of the permanent jurisdiction, of the pontificate; he was equal to the other Apostles on the plane of extraordinary jurisdiction, of the apostolate. St. Thomas Aquinas noted the point with his usual penetration: since it was in public that Paul resisted Peter it was not a case of mere fraternal correction, which can be administered by an inferior to his superior but calls for privacy, and "he would not have done it if he had not been in some respect his equal in the defence of the faith ["nisi aliquo modo par esset quantum ad fidei defensionem"] "[300]. Let us moreover note here that if the Twelve were equal as regards the apostolate that would not prevent one of them from having some prerogative peculiar to himself. St. Augustine points out, for example, that Paul received the apostolate from Christ risen and glorified, but the other Apostles from Christ in His mortal flesh; [301] and to signify that, says St. Thomas, Paul is pictured on papal bulls to the right and Peter to the left.[302]



The Apostles are the basis, the foundation of the Church, first in the sense that they had received from Christ, by whom they had been chosen, the privilege of endowing her with those means of salvation that she would have to employ thenceforth for all time. Here, then, we shall have to deal with their extraordinary jurisdiction, with the spiritual powers of the apostolate. But the Apostles are foundations of the Church in this still more mysterious sense—that they were gifted by God with a zeal so intense and so infectious that its effects would be felt in the hearts of the faithful down to the end of time, and would put its stamp on all the charity of the Church: and so we shall have to discuss, however briefly, the sanctity of the Apostles.

1. The Spiritual Powers Of The Apostolate

The apostolate carried with it the promulgation of certain sacraments, an exceptional prophetic knowledge of the revelation, an extraordinary power to found particular Churches, and finally the gift of miracles.

A. Promulgation Of Certain Sacraments

The sacraments are the instruments of grace, and the Author of grace alone has the final power to institute them. It is therefore as God that Christ has this radical and incommunicable power over them which St. Thomas calls "potestas auctoritatis". But even as Man He has a derivative power to institute the sacraments and to found the Church," potestas excellentiae".[303] He did not communicate it, even to the Apostles, He alone exerted it, instituting all the sacraments Himself.[304] The Apostles were sent, not so that each on his own initiative should found a Church according to his own ideas—many different schemes in fact were possible—but simply and solely to complete and spread abroad the Church of their Master.

Christ not only kept the institution of the sacraments in His own hands, but Himself promulgated those of them that presented the chief difficulties for faith: Baptism, the Eucharist, Holy Orders, Penance. He even announced them in advance, insisting for example with Nicodemus that Baptism would be a new birth, and with the Jews of Capharnaum that His Flesh would be true meat and His Blood true drink.

However, Christ left it to the Apostles to promulgate, that is, authoritatively to notify and make obligatory the other sacraments. Thus Confirmation is only fully made known to us by the Acts of the Apostles (viii. I 7 and xix. 6); Extreme Unction by the Epistle of St. James (v. 14); and the dignity of Matrimony by that of St. Paul to the Ephesians (v. 21).[305]

B. Exceptional Prophetic Knowledge Of The Substance Of Revelation

1. The Apostles' Knowledge Greater Than That Of Preceding Ages

The Apostles, who had to institute no other sacraments than those instituted by Christ, had to preach no other faith than that which Christ brought into the world; a faith moreover that was not meant to destroy but to fulfil the revelations made long before to the people of God. But the Apostles penetrated further into the faith that Jesus announced than the ancient patriarchs and prophets had been able to do. "You may understand," wrote St. Paul to the Ephesians, "my knowledge in the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit. . . To me, the least of all the saints, is given this grace, to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ: and to enlighten all men, that they may see what is the dispensation of the mystery which hath been hidden from eternity in God who created all things" (iii. 4 and 8). That is why the Apostles were charged to reveal new truths which, far from being in any conflict with the ancient faith, would explain and deepen it.[306]

2. The Apostles Knowledge Superior To That Of The Church, Present And Future

1. But is this knowledge of the Apostles, surpassing that of all the generations of the past, to be offered to anyone in the future? No. Theologians explain that the Apostles knew the economy of the law of grace as masters who would have to teach all ages, and that their knowledge would never be surpassed or even equalled. For save in the order of material causation (where the contrary is true), the principles of things are superior to the things themselves. Abraham, for example, who received the Promise, well understood the Promise; Moses, who received the Law, well understood the Law; and the Apostles, who received the mystery of Christ, well understood the mystery of Christ. There is an illusion that appeared first in the second century with the Montanists, and reappears periodically in history, which consists in crediting others living after the Apostles with the full and definitive manifestation of the Spirit promised by Jesus. The Abbot Joachim, who was a Cistercian, thought St. Benedict had it, and Brother Peter John, who was a Franciscan, thought St. Francis had it. The Reformation had other prophets, and modernism also has its own, who proclaim, for instance, that the Christian faith should shake itself free from every sacramental rite and every dogmatic formula. The temptation is always and everywhere the same, except that today there seems to be a growing number of prophets who each attempt to illustrate out of the Gospel the "message" which it is "his mission" to preach to the world.[307] But, said St. Thomas, all these are vanities.[308] For Christ chose His own Apostles Himself, once and for all. "Then he opened their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures" (Luke xxiv. 45). "I will not now call you servants: for the servant knoweth not what his lord doth. But I have called you friends: because all things whatsoever I have heard of my Father, I have made known to you" (John xv. 15). He said to them also: "I have yet many things to say to you: but you cannot bear them now. But when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will teach you all truth. For he shall not speak of himself; but what things soever he shall hear, he shall speak: and the things that are to come he shall show you" (xvi. 12-13).[309] Then, before the Ascension: "But you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence" (Acts 1. 5). Ten days after the Ascension, while they were in the cenacle, the Holy Spirit came upon them, as He has never since come upon anyone.

They were then shown the future—think of what is said in the Apocalypse about the destinies of the Church, in the Epistle to the Romans about the destiny of the Jews. For the most part, however, this did not touch the details of contingent events. Those to whom Jesus had said "Go, teach all nations" could not indeed be unaware that the Gospel was to be proclaimed to the Gentiles, or that after Christ's death the legal observances were virtually superseded; yet we see Peter hesitate for a moment to receive the first pagans into the Church, or publicly to repudiate the Mosaic observances.

They could not be ignorant that Christ would keep His Church in being "till the consummation of the world"; but they knew "neither the times nor the moments which the Father hath put in his own power"—this date not being included amongst the things which the Son of Man could properly announce to the world.[310] But the Spirit showed them fully all that concerned the substance of the mysteries of faith.[311] They must therefore have known the divine revelation not, as we do, through a multitude of human concepts, but by a divine prophetic light, capable of setting all the truths it contains before their minds at once: an intuitive knowledge, richer and more explicit than that to be enjoyed during the whole life of the future Church.[312]

2. It was because, like St. Augustine and St. Thomas, they wanted to give their full meaning to the scriptural texts describing the grace of Pentecost, and because they judged with St. Thomas that those who stood nearer to Christ had the deeper knowledge of the mysteries of the faith, [313] that the classical theologians affirm that the Apostles were privileged to embrace in one clear and distinct act of faith all that the Church would ever learn through the progress of dogma. This does not mean that the Apostles carried in their minds an express and automatically elaborated formulation of all the dogmas to be proposed in succeeding centuries, and that they "kept back "this knowledge from their contemporaries: our higher theology hardly inclines US to such strangely mechanical explanations.[314] It means that the Apostles held the whole revealed deposit under the eye of their faith in the super-eminent richness of a global conceptual presentation, received by them in an infused way which they could not possibly transmit to those around them, and which accordingly they had to translate for the benefit of the faithful by a living and progressive effort of conceptualisation and formulation; conditioned, for the rest, by all sorts of historical circumstances.[315] This is the sense in which we can say that the starting-point of dogmatic progress lay not in the knowledge of the Apostles themselves but in that of the primitive Church; that it consists "in the written and oral formulas of the Apostles, by giving these formulas not precisely the meaning which the supernaturally enlightened understanding of the Apostles would see there explicitly, but the meaning which these formulas express of themselves, understood in the sense of the primitive Church."[316]

3. The doctrine that the Apostles had a perfect knowledge of the revelation was one of the first that the Apologists had to defend. To the Gnostics, who were already accusing the Apostles of "mixing legalist ideas with the words of the Saviour", St. Irenaeus, towards the end of the second century, replied that "it is not allowable to say that the Apostles preached before possessing perfect knowledge [of the economy of salvation] as some have dared to say, who boast of correcting them. For when Our Lord was risen from the dead, when they were invested with the power of the Holy Spirit coming from on high, they were filled with all gifts and received the perfection of knowledge; and it was then that they went forth to the ends of the earth spreading the good news of all that God had done for us, and announcing heavenly peace to men. For each and all of them equally possessed the Gospel of God."[317] Hence they were able to deposit, "like a rich man in a bank", the fullness of truth in the Church.[318] Some years later Tertullian attacked the same doctrine among the African Gnostics, who taught that the Apostles had not known everything: "What sane man will believe that they were ignorant of anything, these whom Christ had set up as masters, who were His companions, His disciples, His intimates, to whom He privately explained all difficulties, saying that it was given to them to know things hidden from others. . ? True, He said: I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now; but He added: When the Spirit of truth is come, He will lead you into all truth. And He kept His promise, since the Acts of the Apostles attest the descent of the Holy Spirit."[319] It is true, Tertullian goes on, that it would be no less folly to agree first that the Apostles were ignorant of nothing, and preached nothing that could set them at odds with each other, and to add next that "they did not reveal all they knew to all, but proclaimed some things in public for all, and entrusted others in secret to a few".[320] But if Tertullian declares that the Apostles revealed all they knew to everybody, it was clearly to rebut the notion of an esoteric doctrine contradicting the common doctrine of the Church, and not to deny that they had a deeper and more explicit knowledge than the faithful of the mysteries they taught them.

3. Prophetic Knowledge Not Extinct In The Church

The Apostles' knowledge of the divine revelation will never be equalled. Yet there will always be prophetic knowledge in the Church. It will continue to exist, but under subordinate forms.

a. The highest and purest of these prophetic lights will be that which the Church, assisted by God, needs in order to grasp, to keep intact, and to explain the meaning of revealed truth which is to be received in obedience and faith. "The privilege of inerrancy or of infallibility guaranteed to the magisterium of the Church cannot be understood in a purely negative or passive sense which would represent God as only intervening just in time to prevent a mishap. The magisterium of the Church proceeds by positive judgments which imply a profound intelligence, an unlimited discernment. Taken simply in themselves, the formulae in which the Church sets the diamond of dogma are wonderful works. How much more precious is the judgment which they contain! This is the lofty form of prophecy which makes the Church a contemplative of the highest order."[321] Thus are communicated to us in the course of ages the authentic conceptual data of the Christian faith. "For our faith rests upon the revelation made to the Apostles and the prophets who wrote the canonical books, but not on revelations eventually made to other Doctors."[322]

b. The Church not only knows the revealed deposit; she is also enlightened on the state of the world and the movement of minds. The most richly endowed of her children share her miraculous penetration. The divine light enables them to discern the fundamental tendencies of their times; they know how to diagnose the real evils, and prescribe the proper remedies. When the masses seem to be struck blind, and even the better sort hesitate or fumble, they go straight to the point with supernatural instinct. Time merely shows how just their vision was. St. Athanasius or St. Cyril, St. Augustine or St. Benedict, Gregory VII, Francis of Assisi, Dominic—these saw, as with prophetical insight, the tendency of their times and the orientation that had to be given to souls. The author of the City of God, the contemplative who eight hundred years ago founded the rule of the Carthusians, St. Thomas who three centuries before the Reformation elucidated the truths that were to be most vigorously contested on the threshold of the new era, Joan of Arc, Teresa of Avila—there you have the true prophets of the Church. They were also saints, though prophecy is distinct, even perhaps separable, from sanctity. But it always occurs, when authentic, in the wake of the apostolic revelation; and as the power of the master sustains and guides the effort of the disciples, authentic prophecies are sustained and guided by the revelation of Christ and His Apostles. "No epoch," says St. Thomas," has lacked men endowed with the spirit of prophecy, not indeed to introduce some new doctrine of the faith [ad novam doctrinam fidei depromendam], but to direct human acts [ad humanorum actuum directionem]."[323] Those prophets who deviate from this course are false prophets.[324]

4. The Word Of God Made Known In Two Ways: By Pure Prophecy And By Teaching

Christian truth, the word of God, comes to man in two ways: by that of pure prophecy, of interior light, as God spoke to the prophets of old and to the Apostles: "The Spirit of truth will teach you all truth. . . and the things that are to come he shall show you" (John xvi. I 3); and by that of teaching or witness: "You shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem and in all Judaea and Samaria and even to the uttermost parts of the earth" (Acts 1. 8); "Going therefore teach all nations" (Matt. xxviii. 19); "He that heareth you, heareth me" (Luke x. 16).[325]

Both these ways are divine. Both are equally attested in the Gospel. But each has its own part to play in the economy of the Church, and they are not interchangeable.

The Apostles themselves were instructed more especially by pure prophecy, in the sense that it was the illumination of Pentecost that gave them plenary understanding of all that the Saviour had taught them previously: "And in that day you shall not ask me anything. . . The hour cometh when I will no more speak to you in proverbs, but will show you plainly of the Father" (John xvi. 23, 25).[326] But it was by way of teaching and witness that they would have to gain the nations for Christ.

5. "Prophetism" And The Light Of Faith

But that is merely a beginning. Whether received by way of prophecy or by way of oral instruction the divine word, in either case, has to be accepted in faith and lived in charity: "Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves" (James 1. 22). Here appears a new order of things, the order of "faith that worketh by charity" (Gal. v. 6), meant for prophets as well as non-prophets, which is higher than the order of prophecy, but in which, in fact, both prophets and Apostles have excelled.

The error of "prophetism", as it appears among the modernists or in the Russian philosopher Nicolas Berdiaeff, who at the time of writing adopts the standpoint of the Gnostics attacked of old by Irenaeus, consists essentially in confusing the first inspirations which belong to the domain of prophecy with the second which belong to that of faith and charity. This initial mistake gives rise to two very serious consequences.

In the first place there is the belief that the spiritual life, as soon as it becomes really deep, makes every man a prophet. Each faithful soul is to experience graces which, if not of the same intensity, are at least of the same nature as the graces accorded to the prophets and Apostles. And just as the prophets of the Old Law and the Apostles on the threshold of the New brought fresh revelations to enrich the earlier ones, so believers of our time are to remain open to other revelations aimed at constantly perfecting the deposit of the Christian faith. Because they will always tend to widen the frontiers of human consciousness, prisoner as it is of social prejudices and enslaved to the finite, because they will essentially modify the spiritual structure of the subject in whom they occur and who will be bound to receive them in the simplicity but also the complexity of his heart—these revelations, superior to all assurances of the common and exoteric consciousness, will be capable of indefinitely renewing Christianity. This, with the progress of history, will be enlarged and purified (by the abandonment of certain dogmas, such as that of hell, in which we may see the effect of some psychopathological complex) and will rise to a higher place in the spiritual hierarchy.[327]

That is not all. For, if the providential design had really been to send men prophetic illuminations to perfect, correct, and perpetually challenge the revealed deposit, it would be to fight against God Himself to try, as Paul nevertheless earnestly urged Timothy to do, to "keep that which is committed to thy trust", to "keep the good thing committed to thy trust" (1 Tim. vi. 20; 2 Tim. 1. 14). In fact the Church, instead of constantly producing new revelations, turned to a regular teaching, and instead of an essentially prophetic Christianity confessed a Christianity that proposed under a discursive form—involving the possibility of an indefinite dogmatic progress by development of the primitive enunciations—the same truths, the same realities, which the Apostles had known all at once and explicitly in an intuitive glance: so that the Church is accused of preferring the inertia of matter to the energies of life, static religion to dynamic religion, and the conservatism and routine of the masses to the free creations of the personal consciousness. But if we recognize, as Scripture requires, the sovereign excellence of the revelation made to the Apostles, it at once becomes clear that their preaching will always be valid, that it will illumine the life of all the saints whom God raises up in His Church to direct the spiritual progress of the Kingdom of God through all ages, all epochs, all phases of culture, to give an undeviating orientation to the whole order of faith and love; and that the supreme changelessness of the divine teaching delivered by the Apostles and triumphing over all the vicissitudes of history is not to be likened to the immobility of terrestrial things, the dullness of matter, the inertia of the average man, and the general laws of social behaviour.[328]

C. Infallible Expression Of The Revelation By Way Of Teaching

Besides the exceptional knowledge they had of the revealed deposit, the Apostles enjoyed the privilege of a miraculous assistance which enabled them to give it an oral or written expression so faithful that God Himself must be said to speak by their mouths—" God as it were exhorting by us "as St. Paul said to the Corinthians (2 Cor. v. 20); and he referred them to his oral teaching: "Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you. . . by which also you are saved, if you hold fast after what manner I preached unto you" (1 Cor. xv. 1-2).

It follows that when they took up the pen to spread the good news, it was God Himself who was to be regarded as the responsible Author of their writings. "No prophecy of scripture," says St. Peter, "is made by private interpretation. For prophecy came not by the will of man at any time, but the holy men of God spoke, inspired by the Holy Ghost" (2 Pet. 1. 20-21). The Vatican Council recalls that the sacred books are regarded as canonical because "being written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit they have God for Author, and have been given as such to the Church", [329] and the Encyclical Providentissimus, of the 18th November 1893, thus develops these words: "It is of small moment that the Holy Spirit has availed Himself of human instruments to write, and there is no question of any error escaping, we will not say the primary Author, but" the inspired writers. For He it was that supernaturally prompted them to write, and while they were writing He so assisted them that they could precisely understand, and faithfully reproduce and infallibly express all that He willed, and nothing but what He willed. Otherwise He could not be the Author of the whole Scriptures. "Just here, we may note, the power of jurisdiction seems to be approximating to the power of order; the inspired writer would seem to be nothing but a pure instrument like the minister of the sacraments. But two great differences remain: (1) the sole end of the inspired writer is outwardly to propose revealed truth, not to introduce grace into a heart; (2) he can consequently choose what revealed truth he will transmit hic et nunc, and thus control the effect of his intervention; which the minister of the sacraments cannot do.

We see then that the grace of inspiration is of the essence of the apostolate. It need not be supposed that the Apostles would want to use it all the time, or that everything they said or wrote about anything was necessarily inspired. The point is that without the grace of inspiration they would never have been able to proclaim infallibly, either orally or in writing, the revelation they had received, and, in consequence, could never have been Apostles. And if the privilege of inspiration was bestowed on two disciples of the Apostles, Mark and Luke, that was because, as Irenaeus explains, their Gospels are properly speaking those of Peter and Paul respectively, and because the witness of Luke in the Acts of the Apostles is also identified with the preaching of Paul.[330] Tertullian likewise asserts against Marcion that the whole evangelical text, instrumentum evangelicum, has first for authors "the Apostles who received from the Lord the task of promulgating the Gospel", and that, "if other apostolic men also took a part, they did not write alone, but with the Apostles", Mark being Peter's interpreter and Luke, Paul's.[331]

Nothing is above the word of God, the revelation of God. In a first sense it is the very action of God, God Himself. But the mystery it encloses, which will never be seen or openly revealed save in heaven and remains impenetrable and an object of faith for all here below, is given to men in diverse ways. The Apostles received it by direct prophetic illumination. Their inspiration enabled them to formulate something of it outwardly: their message, oral and written, containing all the principles or articles of faith, may therefore also be called the word of God. To that extent they were the authors of the oral or written preaching, the word of God intended for all men. If they are to be reckoned as within the Church it will have to be said in consequence that while they lived, the Church, which on their account was "revealing", was above the Scripture "revealed".[332] At their death the Church lost this privilege.

D. Extraordinary Power Of Organization And Of Government; Peter's Power Compared With That Of The Other Apostles

Just as they had exceptional authority as regards things to be taught, so the Apostles had exceptional authority as regards things to be undertaken. To them had been entrusted the execution of Christ's design for the jurisdictional structure of the Church, her organization, her government.

Christ the Good Shepherd, the sole visible Ruler of all the sheep, had, before quitting the earth, left to a sole visible ruler, to Peter, the care of feeding His lambs and His sheep. But He had also given directly to the other Apostles certain extraordinary powers of organization and government, which, in certain respects, made them Peter's equals. This may be clearly gathered for example from Paul's apostolate: he founds the Church at Corinth "as a wise architect" (1 Cor. iii. 10), he avoids preaching the Gospel where Christ is already known "lest I should build on another man's foundation" (Rom. XV. 20); at Antioch, as we have seen already, he withstands Peter to his face (Gal. ii. 11); [333] he is burdened with a daily "solicitude for all the Churches" (2 Cor. xi. 28).

What then are the relations between the regular power given to Peter, and the extraordinary power given to the other Apostles? Precisely as regards the power to organize and to govern the Church, in what respect is Peter the superior of the other Apostles, and in what respect are they his equals? The question is delicate, but at the same time of primary importance.

St. Thomas' answer consists in distinguishing, on the basis of Scripture itself, between the Apostles as Apostles and the Apostles as Christ's sheep. Cajetan gives a penetrating analysis of it, and here I shall try to make one or two further precisions

As Apostles, the Apostles are equal; they have been given extraordinary privileges for the setting up of the Church, respectu Ecclesiae in fieri. Here we will leave on one side for the moment everything which concerns their role as eyewitnesses of Christ's life and resurrection and bearers of the Christian revelation, and consider only their power to rule the universal Church. They receive directly from Christ an executive power—that is to say, a power to undertake missions, found local Churches everywhere, incorporate them into the universal Church, organize them and give them legitimate heads. This extraordinary and intransmissible power for the founding of the Church, which may be called the apostolic power in the strict sense, encloses in itself, rather as the calyx contains the flower, an ordinary and transmissible power for the preserving of the Church—that is, the power of the episcopate. St. Paul had the first power in mind when he wrote to the Romans (xv. 20): "And I have so preached this gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation. "But when he reminds Titus and Timothy of the privileges and duties of their pastoral office, it is the second power which he has in mind.

After Christ's departure the Apostles—as His sheep—were entrusted to one sole shepherd—Peter; and there we have, over and above the apostolic power common to the Apostles, the transapostolic power proper to Peter, which he received directly from Christ.

The difference between these two powers is an essential one. The apostolic power common to the Apostles is the power of founding the universal Church like a workman who lays the foundations of a building—that is to say, episodically, as to its appearance in the past. The transapostolic power proper to Peter is the power of founding the Church like the rock upon which the weight of a building rests—that is to say, structurally, as to its permanence in the present. The Apostles could found local Churches, and incorporate them into the universal Church, and organize them, and give them their bishops; but Peter remains the visible centre of co-ordination of that Church, and his authority stands out in sharp relief immediately after Christ's ascension. According to St. Thomas the Apostles are Peter's equals in carrying out Christ's plan (in executione auctoritatis), but he alone holds the structural authority to rule (auctoritas regiminis) in the manner that has just been described.[334]

If the transapostolic privilege provides the foundation of the Church as does the rock on which a building rests, it follows from this that it will be transmissible of its nature. As Cajetan put it, Peter received it in person not by any private title, but in the name of the Church, as a power which should pass on to all his successors: "In persona propria, non solum pro seipso, sed pro omnibus successoribus suis; quod sancti Doctores exprimunt sub aliis verbis, dicendo quod data est Petro in persona Ecclesiae."[335] The apostolic privilege was, on the contrary, to be intransmissible by its nature. The Apostles possessed it as delegated, in an extraordinary manner, by right of a personal privilege which was to die out with them: "in personis propriis, pro solis personis propriis et non pro eorum successoribus."[336] They were to transmit to their successors the ordinary power of the episcopate only. Peter passed on to his successors two powers—a transapostolic power (as shepherd of Christ's sheep) and an episcopal power (as an Apostle).

Finally it should be added that it was normal for Peter to receive his transapostolic power directly from the hands of Christ. On the contrary, since the other Apostles were to remain under Peter's direction as sheep under the charge of their shepherd, they would, in the ordinary way, have received the apostolic power at the hands of Peter, and it was by a sort of anticipation, justified in any case by the overall demands of their mission, that they too received it directly from the hands of Christ.[337]

Thus, then, Peter alone has the personal power of ruling the universal Church or, in St. Thomas' phrase, the "auctoritas regiminis"; [338] and in this respect, as Cajetan noted, the first successors of Peter, the first Popes, Linus, Cletus, Clement, were above even the Apostle St. John, their contemporary.[339] But in virtue of a divine provision the other Apostles shared with Peter the power of founding new local Churches, of incorporating them with infallible security into the life of the universal Church, and of bringing them, through their mediation, under the authority of the supreme visible pastor of all the sheep of Christ. They were Peter's equals in the work of carrying out Christ's design for the jurisdictional structure of the Church, and in everything touching the execution of the authority, "in executione auctoritatis".[340] Like Peter, they could not only found local Churches, but also organize and govern them, and take all the practical steps which seemed needed in these particular Churches, for example to defend the faith," quantum ad fidei defensionem".[341] And that is why Paul resisted Peter at Antioch.[342]

Peter alone was the Vicar of Christ, that is to say, in the sense in which theologians take this word, the depositary, by regular title, of the supreme jurisdictional power. The other Apostles had only a delegated power, a partial power, enabling them to carry out Christ's work temporarily.[343]

In short, and this is the thought of St. Thomas as regards the power of governing the Church, the Apostles were, absolutely speaking, subordinate to Peter. It was only in a certain respect that they were his equals.[344]

E. The Gift Of Miracles

Finally, all unknown as they were to the peoples to whom they proclaimed a Church without a past, a folly to the Gentiles, a scandal to the Jews, the Apostles were sorely in need of signs to accredit their mission.

The most effective, the one to which they always appealed, was the Resurrection of Our Lord. It guaranteed the truth of the discourses of Peter at Jerusalem (Acts ii. 32), of Paul at Antioch of Pisidia (xiii. 30), at Athens (xvii. 31), and at Corinth (1 Cor. xv).

But, "in the name of Jesus of Nazareth", it was given to themselves also to make the "eloquence of God" (Augustine's phrase) heard in miracles; they too were to straighten the limbs of the lame (Acts iii. 6), heal the sick, cast out devils (v. I 2); they too handled serpents (xxviii. 3), and spoke with tongues (ii. 6). All this had been promised them by Jesus: "And these signs shall follow them that believe: in my name they shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents, and if they shall drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay their hands upon the sick, and they shall recover" (Mark xvi. 17-18).

The power to work miracles—which does not constitute sanctity, but sometimes indicates it—will always, like the gift of prophecy, be found in the Church of God; but in those days it was bestowed freely. Why? St. Gregory the Great's commentary on the words of St. Mark puts it admirably: "You, my brethren, who do not perform these miracles, do you therefore disbelieve them? By no means; for we know that they were needed in the early days of the Church. They were needed that the faith might grow. When we transplant our bushes we give them water for just so long as they seem to need it in order to take root in the earth; and when they are rooted we stop watering them. Hence St. Paul's word [I Cor. xiv. 22]: wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to believers, but to unbelievers."[345]

Such were the privileges of the Apostles. They knew the whole plenitude of the faith distinctly in one intuitive glance. They proclaimed new revealed truths. In so doing, whether by word of mouth or in writing, they were divinely assisted. They could thus augment the treasure of Tradition and of Holy Scripture. They founded the Church wherever they went, whether free or in chains. They confirmed everything with miracles.

2. The Sanctity Of The Apostles

In the domain of sanctity, too, the Apostles had to be efficient causes, sources; hence their eminent sanctity.

A. The Apostles, Principle Of The Charity Of The Church

1. The Contagion Of Their Charity

Besides the jurisdictional power there are powers of love, and to the bare proposition put out by authority may be added the divine persuasion of charity. Now if the whole order of jurisdiction subserves the order of charity, the princes of jurisdiction should also be princes of love; those who first announce divine things should know how to incline men's hearts to love these things, should have the eloquence of charity and this "voice of the heart, which alone goes to hearts". "Simon, son of John, lovest thou me more than these?"—"Yes, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee."—"Feed my sheep" (John xxi. 15). The great wind and the fire that came down on the Apostles on the day of Pentecost marked the influx of the burning and conquering charity which would go kindling on from age to age to the end of historical time [346]—a mysterious and still too little understood causality of grace, acting by contact like a flame that leaps from branch to branch, a causality found eminently in the Apostles but belonging to the Church—not indeed to the Church teaching as such, not to the hierarchy as such, but to the Church believing and loving in her entirety—and issuing from all that is most precious in her, all that is most interior, and most essential.

2. The Excellence Of Their Charity

God, says St. Thomas, "offers to each a grace proportioned to the mission for which he is chosen. The Christ-Man received the most excellent of graces, for his nature would be united to a divine Person. After Him the blessed Mary had the highest plenitude of grace, since she was to be the mother of Christ,". Next we must place St. Joseph, to whom, says Leo XIII, "God entrusted the divine house that contained the first-fruits of the nascent Church", [347] and St. John the Baptist.[348] "Amongst the other saints," St. Thomas goes on, "the Apostles had the highest dignity, that namely of receiving the things of salvation immediately from Christ, so that in a way the Church was founded on them, as it says in the Apocalypse, xxi. 14: And the wall of the city had twelve foundations and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. Also it is said in 1 Corinthians xii. 28: God has given us different positions in the Church, Apostles first. . ." The Apostles "surpassed all the saints—whatever prerogative these others had, virginity, doctrine, martyrdom—for they received the Holy Spirit more copiously". Others perhaps underwent greater sufferings and practised greater austerities, but the Apostles did their work with the greater charity "and they were ready to undertake, if need be, still greater things".[349] Raised to a singular dignity, they had known a superabundant grace, "whence appears the temerity, not to say error, of those who dare to compare the other saints with the Apostles, in anything that concerns grace and glory".[350] They could say, with St. Paul: "Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ" (1 Cor. xi. 1).

3. Their Power To Judge The World

"Amen I say to you, that you, who have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit on the seat of his majesty, you also shall sit on twelve seats judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matt. xix. 28). It may be that the immediate meaning of the "regeneration" was the era of the New Testament, which was to be put under the authority of the Apostles.[351] But it also designates the kingdom of eternal glory: "Know you not that the saints shall judge this world?" wrote St. Paul to the Corinthians. "Know you not that we shall judge angels?" (1 Cor. vi. 3). Not the Apostles only in virtue of their hierarchic privileges, but all the saints with them, the entire Church of love, will "participate in the royal and judicial power of her head", and her judgment will fall on the whole world and even on the angels, for the praise of those who remained faithful and the condemnation of those who rebelled.[352]

But the Apostles excelled in this Church of love. They were the "first fruits of them that believe".[353] A power of judgment is therefore reserved for them. The final judgment, says St. Thomas, could be carried out in three ways. First by "comparison": and in this sense the good will judge the wicked, the saints the world; further, the good will be judged by the better, the worst by the bad. Then, next, by "approbation" of Christ's sentence, and only the just will be allowed to judge thus. Finally by "promulgation" of this sentence, and this will be the privilege of the Apostles, and of those who, following them, shall have despised the world for the sake of spiritual things, since the spiritual man judges all things. This "promulgation" will be "spiritual, not verbal; an illumination, making known to lesser saints and to sinners themselves the rewards and punishments reserved for them, just as men are now illumined by the angels, and the lower angels by the higher."[354] It will be a mental judgment, as St. Thomas says elsewhere, in which the divine virtue will remind each of what he has done; and if this illumination is of the same order as the illumination of the angels by God, and of men by the angels, "it is not surprising that men will then receive something of the light that will fill the Apostles." Christ will then give judgment as Author of the New Law, and the Apostles as its promulgators.[355]

4. Their Intercession

Finally, the Apostles who, in the days of their mortality, gave the Church a momentum of love that would carry her through time and into eternity, and who at the last day will judge her in the clear light of their love, will not cease to protect her by their intercession in heaven. The Church is well aware of it, for she sings in the Preface of the Apostles: "It is truly meet, and just, right and profitable humbly to beseech Thee, O Lord, eternal Pastor, not to forsake Thy flock but ever to guard it and keep it through Thy holy Apostles, so that by these rulers it may be governed whom Thou didst set over it to be its pastors."

B. Marks Of The Charity Of The Apostles

1. "But yet rejoice not in this, that spirits are subject unto you: but rejoice in this, that your names are written in heaven" (Luke x. 20). It was fitting, says St. Thomas, that the Apostles should, at the moment of Pentecost, be confirmed in grace, "for they were to be the foundation and basis of the whole ecclesiastical edifice, and so they had to be firm". In Christ, confirmation in grace excluded even the intrinsic possibility of sin. Not so in the Apostles; but grace became potent enough in them to hold their lower appetites in check, to incline their wills powerfully towards God, and to fasten their minds on contemplation of divine truth, so that on this account alone it was almost impossible for them to sin gravely. Divine providence furthermore saw to it that they were externally prevented from succumbing to temptation.[356] Nevertheless, even so, the Apostles sinned venially. At Antioch it was Peter, the most favoured of them all, who wavered, and Paul had to resist him: "Once they had received the grace of the Holy Spirit the Apostles no longer sinned mortally, and this was due to the divine power that had confirmed them; they sinned however venially, and that was due to human frailty."[357]

This is also St. Augustine's doctrine: "Who more holy among the new people than the Apostles? And yet the Lord would have them pray: forgive us our trespasses."[358] And again he writes: "When Christ was risen, He confirmed the Apostles and they became spiritual. Were they therefore without sin? These spiritual Apostles wrote spiritual epistles and sent them to the churches. You think that they did not sin? I do not think so, and I put it to them thus. Say, holy Apostles, when Christ was risen and you were confirmed by the Spirit sent from heaven, did you know sin no more? Say, I beseech you. And for us, we listen, so that sinners may not despair, nor be discouraged from prayer under pretext that they are no longer without sin. Say then! One of them replies. Who is it? He whom the Lord loved the most, who reclined on the Lord's breast and drank the secret of the kingdom of heaven that he might proclaim it. He it is that I ask: Art thou without sin, or not? He answers and says: if we say that we are without sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."[359]

But how mysterious is this persistent proneness to fall away, this incurable wound in the hearts of those even who had been through the unforgettable experiences of Easter and Pentecost! It will have to be said that nothing and no one in this world has ever been without stain, save only the Mother of Jesus, save only the heart of Jesus, placed by the Eucharist in the midst of all our sins.

2. "It is not reason that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word" (Acts vi. 2-4). The Apostles therefore knew the highest form of the active life, that which Jesus had chosen, the life that would later be called the apostolic life, a life that, flowing from the fullness of contemplation, is higher even than contemplation pure and simple; for "if it is better to illuminate than simply to shine, it is better to hand on to others the truth contemplated than solely and only to contemplate."[360]

3. Finally, they were to give proof of the height of love and seal their mission by martyrdom. "These are they," says the liturgy, "who in their living flesh planted the Church in their own blood; they drank the chalice of the Lord, they are become the friends of God; their message has been spread abroad in the world, their words have gone forth to the ends of the earth."

In a penetrating study Erik Peterson has brought out the relations between the apostolate and martyrdom as understood in the mind of the Church.[361] The notion of apostle comes first, that of martyrdom immediately after. But in the Twelve the two ideas are closely united. This is not accidental: it is providentially willed. Christ Himself, God made Martyr, proclaims it: "I send you out to be like sheep among wolves. . . they will hand you over to courts of judgment, and scourge you in their synagogues; yes, and you will be brought before governors and kings on my account, so that you can bear witness before them, and before the Gentiles. . . A disciple is no better than his master, a servant than his lord" (Matt. x. 17-18, 24). The wolves are, first the Jews, whose Sanhedrins and synagogues are mentioned; also the Roman governors and the kings, that is to say the Gentiles: in short, they are all who persecute the Church, that God may have mercy on them all. The conflict between the sheep and the wolves, between the Apostles and the world, is due to no passing misunderstanding; it is ineluctable, and to say that the entire Church is essentially apostolic is to say that the entire Church is essentially crucified, martyred.

We have noted that the extraordinary jurisdiction of the apostolate and the permanent jurisdiction of the pontificate were united in the Twelve. Only the permanent jurisdiction passed to their successors. It is not necessarily bound up with martyrdom. However, the grace of martyrdom is never lacking in the Church. We must steer clear of two contradictory errors, says Erik Peterson: that which would recognize none but martyrs as authentic successors of the Apostles, and that which holds that martyrdom, the cross, asceticism, are no longer needed by the Church. Jurisdiction and the grace of martyrdom, which were united in the Twelve, can be separated among other Christians. But the Church gathers them up together and holds them in close association in the mystery of her profound collective unity.



The traditional doctrine of the Kingship of Christ, its authority fortified by the Encyclical on Christ the King (11 December 1925), throws a strong light on the source of the jurisdiction of the Church, and ought on this account to be incorporated in the treatise De Ecclesia to aid the systematization of ecclesiological doctrine. I shall try to show here—with the help of two studies, one of which very clearly sums up the views of theologians prior to the Encyclical (M. B. Lavaud, O. P. "La Royaute temporelle de Jesus-Christ sur l'univers", in Vie spirituelle March 1926), and the other assigning the proximate bases of the temporal kingship of Christ (Ch. . V. Heris, O. P. "La Royaute sacerdotal du Christ", in Le Mystere du Christ, ch. v)—that it is important to distinguish three kingships in Christ: His "divine" kingship, His "spiritual" kingship, and His "temporal" kingship. Only one of these three, the spiritual kingship, has been imparted in a certain measure to the Church.

1: The Divine Kingship. We can consider Christ as God. And thus He is King and Lord, both of the universe of supernatural realities and of the universe of natural and temporal things.

2: The Spiritual Kingship. We can consider Christ as Man, charged with the task of imparting spiritual life to the world. Capital grace, which filled His heart, made Him King at once over the whole supernatural order, with a mission to lay down the speculative truths to be believed and the practical things to be done. It is a moving thought, as the Encyclical observes, following St. Thomas (III, q. 59, a. 3), that the supremacy over mankind that Christ received from the very outset, He nevertheless desired to merit by His Blood. This kingship is altogether spiritual, altogether supernatural. It touches spiritual things alone, but there are two levels of things thus subjected to Christ's spiritual kingship.

The first are spiritual always and by their very nature—such as all that is essentially ordered to salvation, truths to believe or put into practice, supreme sanctions and so forth: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned," (Mark xvi. 16); "If you love me, keep my commandments" (John xiv. 15); "Then shall the king say to them that shall be on his right hand: Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. . . Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt. xxv. 34 and 41).

The second become spiritual temporarily and by accident: "The spiritual kingship of Christ", says Heris, on this subject, "involves this power of intervention in human affairs: and in fact in the Gospel we may see Christ making use of it when, for example, He turns the money-changers out of the Temple, and vindicates God's right to be duly honoured even at the expense of commercial liberties. It is not without interest to remark that this power of intervention in the temporal order does not give Christ any new royal dignity, but is part of His spiritual kingship. For there is no question here of commanding and legislating with a view to the natural common good of human society—all that belongs to the temporal power properly so-called. "It is a case of intervention in matters which, although normally temporal, become spiritual in particular cases, because of the way in which they affect the salvation of souls. In this jurisdiction over temporal things in so far as they are accidentally ordered to the spiritual, we shall recognize what the theologians of the Renaissance called (in a phrase which must be properly understood) the indirect power over the temporal.

3: Temporal Kingship. We may lastly consider Christ as Man, abstracting for the moment from the habitual grace He came to give. Then He would not be formally and actually the King of grace. But the infused natural knowledge which already filled His intelligence would enable Him to rule the natural world. Radically, by reason of His union with God, and proximately on account of His infused natural knowledge, Christ therefore possesses as of right the temporal kingship of the whole universe. He is "the prince of the kings of the earth" (Apoc. 1. 5), the "King of kings and Lord of lords" (Apoc. xix. 16). This universal and transcendent suzerainty is not incompatible with the particular power of earthly kings, but contains and envelops it. Whence it follows that Christ could have assumed the temporal government of the whole world without doing any injustice to its kings. His power implies the right to depose princes for merely temporal reasons and to transfer their crowns to others. We must likewise say that Christ, besides His temporal kingship, had a right of property in the whole universe. And thus, at need, we can explain how He could take over certain articles of private property, for example the she-ass and the colt He used for His entry into Jerusalem; that He could allow the Apostles to pluck the ears of corn in the fields, that He could curse and destroy the barren fig-tree, that He could send the devils into the swine so that they rushed into the sea and were drowned. It is however preferable to explain all this by His spiritual kingship.

For Jesus, who was temporal Lord of the universe in right, never wished to be so in fact. He did not make use of His power. He left all the kings on their thrones, as the Church sings in the Epiphany hymn: "He took not away the perishable kingdoms, who gave heavenly kingdoms.", St. Augustine remarked that in saying: "My kingdom is not of this world," Christ was saying to all earthly kings: "Fear not, I meddle not with your dominion. "He did not deny that He was King, even over the temporal, but only that He was so in the manner of earthly kings. His kingship is not particular, but universal; it does not exclude other kingdoms, but permits them; it is not exercised in splendour and display, but hides behind a poor and humble exterior. "Now Christ, although established King by God, did not wish while living on earth to govern temporally an earthly kingdom. . . in like fashion He did not wish to exercise judiciary power over temporal concerns, since He came to raise men to divine things" (St. Thomas, III, q. 59, a. 4 ad 1). In the same way, although in right He owned all things in the whole universe, He wished to have no more than the mere use of just a few. From being rich, He made Himself poor. He said of Himself: "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head" (Matt. viii. 20). The reason for this renunciation was that Jesus did not come to use His rights, but to establish by the cross a spiritual kingdom, a crucified kingdom, in which poverty, tears and humiliation would be blessed.

The Encyclical sums up the doctrine of the temporal dominion of Jesus in a few lines: "We cannot without grave error refuse to Christ as Man the sovereignty over all temporal things. For He received from His Father a right so comprehensive over creatures that all are placed under His dependence. But while He lived on this earth He wholly abstained from the exercise of any such dominion, and although He has authorised and still authorises the possession and administration of temporal goods, He Himself disdained them. Hence the beautiful line—He takes not away the perishable kingdoms, who gives us the heavenly kingdom."

Of the three kingships of Jesus it goes without saying that the first, the "divine" kingship, is incommunicable. The third, the "temporal", which Christ possessed without desiring to use it, was no part of the treasure that He left to His disciples. The second alone, the spiritual kingship, concerned with things that are spiritual either by nature or accidentally, has passed to the Church—in a measure that remains to be precisely stated. All the accusations of theoretical imperialism made against the Roman Church by the dissident Graeco-Russians or by Protestants can be rebutted by this doctrine.

Here I have tried to define the precise reason for the kingship of Christ, in so far as it is distinct from His priesthood.

But evidently the Feast of Christ the King can be given a more extended sense. For example, we could oppose the reign of love (the Kingdom of God) to the reign of justice, which punishes; we could distinguish the Kingdom of Innocence from the crucified Kingdom of Redemption; and we could describe the preparation, the foundation, and the destinies of this crucified Kingdom. All that is suggested in the liturgy of the Feast of Christ the King.


Christ employs the power of order to make contact with His Church and to pour into her in secret the plenitude of redemptive grace. He employs the power of jurisdiction, the pastoral power, to put before her, always from without, always by way of sensible contact, the whole fullness of the truth, speculative and practical, that is to guide her through time to eternal beatitude.[362] To the Apostles He gave first an extraordinary jurisdiction (apostolate) which would die with them, and which they would need for the founding of the Church, then in process of becoming rather than in actual being. And He gave them, linked with the power of order, and, like the latter, transmissible, an ordinary jurisdiction (pontificate) which they were to pass on to their successors.[363]

1. The Chief Divisions Of The Jurisdictional Power

A power is a potency endowed with pre-eminence and with authority to act.[364] It is defined more especially by its end. The generic end of the power of spiritual jurisdiction is authoritatively to propose to men what is needed to bring them to eternal beatitude. The task is very complex and its fulfilment demands a variety of different measures. One same power may be competent to command acts widely distinct from each other, provided only that these acts conspire together directly to the same end, or—as St. Thomas says, and it comes to the same thing—provided that these acts are immediately ordered to one another, the first being causes of the second: as fire, for instance, brought near a metal, first heats, then expands, and then melts it.[365] Thus in the heart of one same generic power we have been able to recognize two great jurisdictions conferred by Christ on the Apostles: the one, extraordinary, directed to the foundation of a Church which is to last till the end of time; the other ordinary, directed to its conservation.

The ordinary jurisdiction itself, setting aside the secondary divisions to which it gives rise and to which canonists are obliged to have recourse, and studying only its essential function which is unceasingly to conserve and form the Church in the world, can be distinguished in several ways. Four major divisions may, I think, be proposed.



1. The first is "formal". It is concerned with the form or the role of the jurisdictional mediation. We see from this standpoint that the jurisdictional power, the power to "state the law", may intervene in two ways: a. as at bottom a mere condition sine qua non to declare, recall or explain the higher decisions of the divine law; and b. as a true intermediary cause, itself promulgating the decisions of ecclesiastical law, and thus giving Christian society its external organization. I shall name them for short the declaratory power [366] and the canonical or legislative power, taking this last word in its broadest sense.[367] We shall see that the canonical or legislative power, which is subordinate to the declaratory power, subdivides in its turn in several ways.

2. The second division is "material". It is concerned with the material character of the measures prescribed by the jurisdictional power.

a. From this point of view we may divide the jurisdictional power according as it proclaims speculative truths to be held, or practical truths to be acted on. We shall therefore distinguish the authority to propose speculative truth and the authority to propose practical truth. I must emphasise once more that these are not, properly speaking, two distinct authorities, two distinct powers, but one and the same power, bearing on propositions to be received with the same obedience whether they be speculative or practical in tenor.[368] Nevertheless, this division, although it is simply material, will enable us to define several points concerning the constitution and formation of the message of the Church.

b. This division might be replaced by another, somewhat different. Instead of distinguishing jurisdictional decisions as "speculative "and practical, we might distinguish them as "doctrinal" and practical, using the word "practical" differently. In this sense "doctrine" covers speculative truths and practical truths (as defined above)—they are practical as ordered to action, but doctrinal (that is, speculative) by their tenor, which is general or universal; it sets out what is to be interiorly accepted both for belief and action, and includes both faith and morals.[369] Over against that the practical will then principally concern the exterior performance of acts demanded by life in common. Thus we shall be led to distinguish a power that is doctrinal or magisterial, and a power that is practical, applicatory, disciplinary.[370] Once more, these are not two formally distinct powers, but one sole power which demands, at one time our adherence to decisions chiefly doctrinal, at another our performance of certain acts chiefly external. And if we may revert to the first distinction we made, we remark that even disciplinary decisions may come from the declaratory power (such as the suspension of servile work on certain days), and that even magisterial decisions may come from the canonical power (such as the doctrinal decrees of the Roman Congregations).[371]

3. The third division considers directly the proximate end, and consequently the degrees, of the jurisdictional power. From this standpoint the latter comprises, by divine ordinance, two degrees: the sovereign pontificate and the subordinated episcopate.[372] Although it may serve to mark the degrees of the power of jurisdiction and to distinguish their respective depositaries, this division is not simply material. For the sovereign pontificate is immediately directed to the good of the universal Church, but the episcopal power to the good of a particular Church, and the totality of the episcopal powers (represented for example by the body of bishops during a vacancy of the Apostolic See) to the good of the totality of particular Churches. Now the good of the whole is something other than a particular good or the whole sum of particular goods. It differs from these specifically, since the whole is not simply the sum of its parts, but the sum of its parts plus an order. The sovereign pontificate with its plenary jurisdiction is therefore specifically distinct from the episcopate with its partial jurisdiction. Here we have really two powers, the second being subordinate to the first.

4. Finally there is a fourth way—"accidental" but very important—of dividing the jurisdictional power. Directly, essentially, this division concerns the quality of the assistance promised by God to the jurisdictional authority. But indirectly, by way of consequence, it enables us to classify the jurisdictional power itself. From this standpoint, according to the way in which it is assisted in exercise, the jurisdiction will be called absolutely infallible, or prudentially infallible, or fallible (though not without a real assistance).

The kind of adhesion, the kind of obedience, which we owe to the jurisdictional power and—its decisions—the theological obedience of faith due to the divine (and uncreated) Authority, or the moral obedience of piety due to the ecclesiastical (and created) authority [373]—will depend on whether the role of the jurisdictional intervention is purely declaratory or genuinely mediatory; and on the respective degrees of their infallibility.

I have tried to characterize the principles which enable us to divide the permanent jurisdiction. Its great divisions, being made from widely different points of view, naturally cross and become intermingled, sometimes superposed. We must now take up the principal divisions in detail, to make them plainer, give them completion, help them throw light on each other, and illustrate them by examples. But let us first set them out in tabular form.

2. Synoptic Table Of These Divisions

[the diagram on page 160 was put into indented tree format for e-text]


1 .1 extraordinary or apostolate
1 .2 permanent or pontificate, which are subdivided
1 .2 .1 essentially by causality
1 .2 .1 .1 formal, into
1 .2 .1 .1 .1 declaratory power
1 .2 .1 .1 .2 canonical power
1 .2 .1 .2 material
1 .2 .1 .2 .1 into
1 .2 .1 .2 .1 .1 speculative power
1 .2 .1 .2 .1 .2 practical power
1 .2 .1 .2 .2 or
1 .2 .1 .2 .2 .1 magisterial power
1 .2 .1 .2 .2 .2 disciplinary power
1 .2 .1 .3 final into
1 .2 .1 .3 .1 particular jurisdiction
1 .2 .1 .3 .2 universal jurisdiction
1 .2 .2 accidentally by assistance
1 .2 .2 .1 infallible
1 .2 .2 .1 .1 absolutely
1 .2 .2 .1 .2 prudentially
1 .2 .2 .2 fallible

The first great division of the permanent jurisdiction is therefore the division into the declaratory power and the canonical power.



The first division of the permanent jurisdiction is into two powers formally distinct: that of declaring, disclosing, giving expression to decisions that are immediately divine; and that of enacting, establishing, prescribing and promulgating decisions that are immediately ecclesiastical. The former power is the higher. The latter power, implied in the former as an effect is implied in its cause, exists only to serve it, and, in a way, to prolong it.

1. The Declaratory Power

A. The Role Of The Declaratory Power

If God Himself should deign to speak to us directly, the cause, basis and end of our acceptance of and assent to His word would be nothing less than His infinite truth and His infinite authority. But God Cause, Basis and End of our assent, may avail Himself of a created means, for example His Church, to show us what are the things, what are the truths, to which He would have us assent. The power thus given the Church will not then be the cause, basis and end of our assent, but only its condition sine qua non; for without it we should not know to what propositions to give this assent which has God for Cause, Basis and End.

That, then, is the function of the declaratory power—to determine what pronouncements are to be received on the immediate authority of God. It does not interpose between God and ourselves as an intermediary or instrumental cause; it intervenes as a simple condition needed to put us in touch with the divine word.

Must we then conclude that it is not a jurisdictional power? On the contrary, the declaratory power is the jurisdictional power in its highest, purest and most divine role. It binds, since it determines what is to be received on the authority of God; and it looses, since it is competent to announce, for instance, the cessation of the ceremonial precepts of the Old Law. It defines with authority the limits of the divine forum. It is competent to designate certain acts, whether interior or exterior, as required of men.

The declaratory power is evidently ministerial.[374] But, as it intervenes only to propose truths that come immediately from God, and its role is that of a pure condition sine qua non. Strictly speaking therefore, its role is not instrumental; we should not confuse it with the strictly instrumental power of order, with the sacerdotal character, which enables the priest to remit sins in the sacrament of Penance. To express the same thing from another point of view, and to compare the immediate contact set up between the soul and God in the act of divine faith, and the immediate contact set up between the soul and God in the reception of the sacraments, we say that in the first case the contact is immediate with a "supposital" immediacy: for then the Church intervenes in no way, even instrumentally, as the basis of the assent of faith, but only to designate what is to be held as of faith; whereas the contact of the soul with God through the power of order and the sacraments, which act as instruments, that is as intermediary supposita, can be immediate only with a "virtual" immediacy.[375]

B. The Declaratory Power The Highest Manifestation Of The Permanent Jurisdiction

The office of the declaratory power is infallibly to propose the content of the Christian revelation to the world. Its role is not, as we have just said, to provide, even instrumentally, a basis for the assent of divine faith; but to make this assent possible by defining what is to be held with divine faith. For two aspects have to be distinguished in the act of faith: its basis and motive, i. e. the authority of God revealing; and its condition, i. e. the authority of the Church proposing the revelation. If faith, says Cajetan, "inclines the mind to adhere to certain truths proposed, it is because God has revealed them; but that God has revealed this or that, in this sense or that other sense, this we believe because the Church so teaches."[376]

It is clear that the declaratory power, the power to propose divine revelation infallibly, obliges and binds of itself. It is empowered, it has authority, to demand that its message, once sufficiently proposed, shall be believed with divine faith under pain of mortal sin against faith. It has no authority to establish the assent of faith, but it has full authority to define the statements on which this assent is under obligation to fall. Hence it is an authentic jurisdictional power.[377] It extends, as of right, to all men. And it can prescribe purely interior acts of faith [378] as well as those that are outwardly manifested.

The declaratory power, infallibly proposing the object of Catholic faith, is therefore to be considered as the highest form of the jurisdictional power.

C. The Bipartite Division Of The Powers Of The Church Into Sacramental And Jurisdictional Power To Be Preferred To The Tripartite

In consequence, the tripartite division of the powers of the Church into the power of order, the power of magisterium, and the power of jurisdiction, is to be rejected. We must substitute a bipartite division into a power of order and a power of jurisdiction. Let us briefly recall here (1) the reasons that justify this bipartite division; (2) some authorities in its favour; and (3) the inconveniences of the tripartite division.

1. a. Christ, the Head of the Church, acts upon her, says St. Thomas, in two ways: by interior influx and by exterior government.[379] The first action, which communicates grace, pertains to Christ's priesthood; the second, which communicates truth, pertains to His kingship. When Christ returned to heaven He left on earth, so as to remain in contact with men, a ministerial participation of His priesthood—and that is the sacramental power ordained for the hidden conveyance of grace; and a ministerial participation of His kingship—and that is the jurisdictional power ordained for the outward proclamation of the truth. b. According as the jurisdiction is concerned with the founding of the Church by the Apostles, or with her conservation throughout the ages, it subdivides into extraordinary and permanent jurisdiction. These two jurisdictions act through an outward voice announcing the truth with authority, and are thereby jointly distinguished from the power of order which acts in a strictly instrumental way to communicate grace. Where is the extraordinary jurisdiction to be placed in the tripartite division? c. The ordinary jurisdiction is a moral power, conferred by way of designation; but the power of order, and, more generally, the sacramental power, is a physical power conferred by consecration. St. Thomas, when he asks himself whether the schismatics still retain any power, mentions only these two powers of the Church.[380] d. A jurisdictional power transmits its message with authority; it is competent to bind in conscience. Now these characters are found in the magisterium. Even when she proposes purely speculative truth the Church acts jurisdictionally, "tamquam auctoritatem habens"; she has the right to exact obedience. She does not teach like the philosophers and the scientists. It is good to keep this constantly in mind.

2. a. If, as Boniface VIII defined at the end of the Bull Unam Sanctam," Every human creature is subject to the Roman Pontiff", [381] it is not in virtue of that Pontiff's power to rule the baptized alone through ecclesiastical law; it is by reason of his power to preach the Gospel everywhere. The submission of every creature is required by the sufficiently manifested act of the magisterium itself, not by a superadded ecclesiastical power which can reach none but the baptized. The infallible magisterium of the Roman Pontiff is therefore a jurisdictional power. b. The Council of Florence declares that, in virtue of the "primacy "with which he is invested, the Roman Pontiff is the "father and doctor of all Christians".[382] Whence we see that the jurisdictional primacy involves the magisterial power. c. The same conclusion emerges from the affirmation of the Vatican Council that Peter, having received directly from Christ "the primacy of jurisdiction over the whole Church of God", [383] became by this fact," the prince and chief of the Apostles, the pillar of the faith, the foundation of the Catholic Church", [384] by which last words is certainly meant the infallible magisterium. The Vatican Council declares next that "the power of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff claims the obedience of the faithful in matters not only of faith and morals but also discipline", and that the Roman Pontiff is the principle "of unity, whether of faith or of communion".[385] To give these texts their full meaning is to recognize, I think, that the function of the jurisdictional power is to define the faith itself, and to impose it primarily in virtue of divine authority, and not by any subsidiary title or by merely disciplinary measures. Finally the Council-speaking of the "supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole Church", [386] which a little earlier, echoing the words of the Council of Florence, it had called a "primacy", [387] namely "the primacy of jurisdiction over the whole Church of God given by Christ to the Apostle Peter"[388]—declares that in "this apostolic primacy" which belongs to the Roman Pontiff as successor of Peter, "is also comprised the supreme power of magisterium: "Ipso autem apostolico primatu. . . supremam quoque magisterii potestatem comprehendi, haec sancta sedes semper tenuit."[389] How could it be more clearly said that the supreme power of magisterium, with which the Council goes on to deal in detail, is itself comprised in the more general power of jurisdiction it has just dealt with? Yet Billot sees in this "quoque "an "egregia confirmatio "of the irreducibility of the magisterium to the jurisdiction! d. The tripartite division, it is true, is found several times, but accidentally, in the Primum Schema Constitutionis Dogmaticae de Ecclesia Christi, submitted for examination to the Fathers of the Vatican Council. For example, in Chapter 4 on the visibility of the Church: "Hence the visible magisterium by which the faith, to be interiorly believed and exteriorly professed, is publicly proposed. Hence also the visible ministry, which carries out in public the visible mysteries of God whence men receive interior sanctification, and God the worship that is due to Him. Hence the visible government, which orders the intercommunion of the members with each other, and directs the whole exterior and public life of the faithful in the Church. "Then, in Chapter 8, on the indefectibility of the Church: "That is why the Church of Christ can never lose her properties and her gifts, her sacred magisterium, her ministry, and her government. "However, the bipartite division appears in Chapter 10, treating expressly of the power of the Church; after a reminder that in the Church is a divinely instituted triple power to "sanctify, teach and govern", comes: "But since the power of the Church is double: power of order and power of jurisdiction. . .", and of this last power it is said that it extends "not only to matters of faith and morals, but also, etc."[390] e. To these witnesses let us add the names of some modern theologians who remain faithful to the ancient bipartite division. D. Palmieri, S. J. writes: "The Church's authority to teach, to which corresponds the obligation on the faithful to believe what is proposed by the magisterium, is a part of the power of jurisdiction. . . it is comprised in the genus of jurisdictional power."[391] But Palmieri is perhaps responsible for many misconceptions when he proposes sufficiently to justify his thesis by explaining that to the obligation to be believed and obeyed imposed by the divine law, the magisterium can add an obligation under ecclesiastical law. F. X. Wernz, S. J. says: "The ecclesiastical power as a whole is divided into two species only, namely the power of jurisdiction and the power of order. The power of jurisdiction, taken as a genus, is divided in its turn into the power of magisterium, concerned with what is to be believed, and the power of government, concerned with what is to be done."[392] J. V. de Groot, O. P. writes: "The opinion of those who, retaining the bipartite division of the powers, put the magisterium under jurisdiction, seems to be the truer"[393]: R. M. Schultes, O. P. "The power of jurisdiction divides into the power of the magisterium and that of commanding or ruling in the strict sense."[394] Pere Marin-Sola, O. P. was, I may add, of the same opinion; it was he who first drew my attention to the inconveniences of the tripartite division, which I had earlier accepted. Finally, Cardinal Gasparri writes in his Catechism (Question 140): "That she might attain the end for which she was founded, Christ the Lord bestowed on His Church the power of "jurisdiction" and the power of "order"; the power of jurisdiction includes the power of teaching."[395] (However, the references to the Gospel texts given in the notes seem to bring us back to the tripartite division.) [396]

3. The tripartite division, championed above all by J. B. Franzelin, S. J. who relies on Suarez, and by Billot, seems to present some notable difficulties. a. It leads Billot, as we have said, to invent the notion of a doctrinal jurisdiction distinct from the infallible magisterium, and binding as of divine right. b. In order to distinguish the magisterium from jurisdiction, the former is first of all defined by saying that it aims at "proposing, explaining and defining the divine doctrine infallibly"—thus Franzelin [397] and Billot.[398] Then it is said elsewhere that the magisterium extends over a field where there is no longer any question of infallible authority, of divine faith, but simply of "an authority of a doctrinal providence".[399] But how do these authors distinguish this last "magisterial" domain, in which the Church speaks on its own responsibility, from the domain that they call "jurisdictional"? c. Finally, after distinguishing the powers of order, of the divine magisterium, and of jurisdiction from each other, and declaring this last to be the domain of the purely ecclesiastical forum, they seem to upset everything by admitting the existence, as Billot does, of an "instrumental" jurisdiction, exercised in the full divine forum, to which is to be attributed even the sacramental power of absolving from sin.[400]

There exists, it is true, a tripartite division to which we shall often refer. It is based on Scripture, in which Christ is set forth as the principle or source of the priesthood, of grace, and of truth. But that is not a simple division of the hierarchic powers. It is a division by the three formalities under which Christ, Priest, Saviour, and King, gives Himself in the Church; whence results in her created soul, and so throughout her being, a triple incorporation into Christ, by the sacramental characters, by the sacramental graces, and by jurisdictional truth.

D. The Field Of The Declaratory Power: Infallible Truths And Dogmatic Facts

Does the Church use her declaratory power only when she proposes truths "of Catholic faith", that is truths she defines as "revealed", as to be held by "divine faith"? I think not. She makes use of it also, in my opinion, when she teaches "infallible truths", that is propositions defined infallibly, yet not expressly defined as revealed; and also what are called in theology "dogmatic facts".

The question of the real and objective inclusion in the revealed deposit of these "infallible truths" and "dogmatic facts" will be considered further on; and we shall see that they pertain to the declaratory and not to the canonical power. For the moment it will be enough to remark that a message proposed with a divine and absolute infallibility puts us in contact with the very authority of God Himself, before which all other authority is effaced and can do no more than manifest or declare His intentions. If, as St. Thomas says, the created witnesses are infallible only when they are rectified by the uncreated Truth, and, consequently, only when they no longer put before us a created testimony, but the very testimony of God Himself who speaks, [401] it must be held that all the infallible definitions of the Church are acts of her declaratory power and manifest to us decisions that are immediately divine.

E. Some Of Its Other Applications

It remains to clear up a rather delicate point.

Certain interventions of the jurisdictional power of the Church in the divine forum, even indeed in the sacramental forum, interventions whose existence is admitted by all theologians but whose justification is not altogether easy, seem to me to be more readily explained as soon as we agree to consider them as acts of the declaratory power. I refer to the dispensations sometimes granted by the Church from the divine obligations arising from an oath, from a vow, from a consummated non-sacramental marriage, and from a non-consummated sacramental marriage.

Let us recall first, after St. Thomas, that the precepts of the Decalogue admit of no dispensation.[402] Nobody disputes it as regards the precepts of the first table, concerned with our duties to God. But Scotus, in view of the command to Abraham to immolate his son, disputes it for the precepts of the second table, concerned with our duties to our neighbour. Let us say nevertheless with St. Thomas and Cajetan that the precepts of the second table in themselves, and as regards the obligations to justice they contain, can by no means be dispensed: the slaying of an innocent person, theft, adultery are always forbidden. God however, who is Creator, can dispense from a precept in a certain respect, or, more precisely, can so completely transform the matter of the precept that the act which previously was sinful, now embracing new moral matter, ceases to be so. The treasures of the Egyptians belong to God; He can take them away without a shadow of injustice, and (that at least is the explanation given by the ancients) order the Israelites to do so in His name. Isaac's life is God's; He can decide to cut it short when it pleases Him without shadow of sin or homicide, in all justice, inasmuch as death is the wages of the first sin; and He can make Abraham the instrument of His most holy will. Spouses are His; He can withdraw one of them from the conjugal bond by death, or by a will such as that which He showed to Osee (according to St. Thomas' interpretation) enjoining him to espouse an adulteress.[403] What then shall we conclude? In none of these cases was the divinely-given precept abolished; but a divine pronouncement, made by way of a particular revelation, indicated that God withdrew from the operation of the precept some determinate matter which it had previously covered.[404] And, without doubt, these biblical incidents are unique events in the world's history. But the way in which the theologians have justified them enables one, I believe, to explain how, in a domain restricted in advance, the Church in her turn can relieve her children of certain obligations under the divine law.

For obligations under the divine law arise in two distinct domains. "The first flow immediately from the divine law, prior to every determination of the human will. They lie, without the slightest doubt, wholly outside the jurisdiction of the Church. They belong to the very framework of the Kingdom of God, which the Church, of course, has no mission to dissolve. But there are other obligations which, although contracted in virtue of the divine law, bear on us only as a result of some act of our own human will, such as those that arise from an oath, from a vow, from a sacred contract. These are susceptible of dispensation; since it is quite appropriate to provide a remedy for the insufficiencies of human deliberation, which is neither able to weigh everything nor to foresee all the circumstances in which a spontaneously and freely accepted obligation may be opposed to a greater good."[405] There then we have the proper field for the interventions of the Church.

How are they to be justified? Must we fall back on the notion of a strictly instrumental jurisdictional power?[406] Let us rather try to apply here the solution given by the ancients to the problems mentioned above. The Church, properly speaking, never intervenes to suspend the divine obligation itself. It does so only to declare with authority that, by reason of a just and duly proportionate cause, God Himself decides to withdraw such and such a determinate matter from the divine obligation. But here the declaration is no longer made by way of a particular revelation. Neither is it made, as in the case of the Pauline privilege, by way of a public revelation set forth in the canonical Scriptures. It is made by way of the jurisdictional power of the Church, authentically pronouncing that the matter of such and such a vow or such and such an oath is no longer approved by God, [407] that such and such a person, bound by a possibly consummated but non-sacramental marriage, or a non-consummated sacramental marriage, is now released therefrom.

God alone therefore can release from an obligation incurred in virtue of the divine law. He never does so by abolishing the sacrosanct prescriptions of the divine law; He simply withdraws particular persons from the bonds they have contracted in the divine forum by act of their own will, on condition that these bonds have not, of their very nature, become inseparable from these persons, as happens in the case of a consummated sacramental marriage. But how should we ever know that God had decided to release men from their divine obligations if He did not declare it Himself? It is precisely the function of the jurisdictional power of the Church to manifest authoritatively these divine decisions. It is not, as the sacramental power is, "instrumental"; it is "declaratory".

The mission of the declaratory power, infallibly assisted, is to bind or loose men by authoritatively proposing decisions that are immediately divine. The particular power of loosing by authentically declaring that in certain circumstances God releases someone from the obligations of a vow, of a non-sacramental consummated marriage, [408] or of a sacramental non-consummated marriage, is part of the general declaratory power. The Church is infallible in claiming this power and in determining the general conditions for its valid exercise.[409] Since however its exercise can bear only on particular facts which cannot involve the fate of the universal Church, it is never infallibly guaranteed. The other acts of the declaratory power, resulting in the definition of such and such a truth or dogmatic fact, are always infallible; but the acts of the special power to loose from a vow or a marriage can always be invalidated by defect of some requisite condition.[410]



Many contemporary theologians and canonists, following Billot, recognize two jurisdictions in the Church: a jurisdiction of the proper forum, having its complete and perfect existence in the Church, and used by her as a principal cause to bind and to loose; and a jurisdiction of the internal forum, having its complete being in God and exercised by the Church only as an instrument (De Ecclesia Christi, 1921, p. 451). As against this appeal to an "instrumental" jurisdiction—which others call "vicarious"—let us pass briefly in review some particularly delicate problems concerning the sacramental forum and the jurisdictional forum. In each case, as it seems to me, the Church intervenes not in any strictly instrumental manner, but much rather (whether she merely "declares" some directly divine decision, or "promulgates" some directly ecclesiastical measure) as supplying the conditions under which the divine interventions can ultimately proceed.

1: Determinations bearing on the essence of certain sacraments. Christ instituted all the sacraments immediately; some, namely Baptism and the Eucharist, in all their details; others—such at least is the opinion of many theologians—by giving the Church power to determine what matter and form should be valid. It was thus, according to the Council of Florence (Denz. 698 and 701), that, in the sacrament of Confirmation, the imposition of hands was replaced, in East and West, by the application of chrism; and that, in the sacrament of Order, the imposition of hands was replaced, in the West, by the tradition of the instruments (cf. P. Galtier, S. J. Dict. de theol. cath. art. "Imposition des mains", cols. 1386 and 1410). Thus again may be explained the fact that in the Middle Ages the indicative formula of the sacrament of Penance replaced the deprecatory (cf. A. Vacant, Dict. de theol. cath. art. "Absolution", cols. 247 and 252). Can then the Church make or change the sacraments?

No: it is clear enough that in making the aforesaid determinations the Church's whole action amounted to choosing, among the various means suitable for signifying a sacramental grace, that one of those means which Christ would henceforth use. She intervened in a lateral manner, as conditioning, but not as efficient cause; she is mera conditio qua posita suum sortitur effectum institutio divina, as Billot himself here admirably puts it (De Ecclesia Sacramentis, 1915, vol. I, p. 37). Here therefore is no jurisdiction equivalent or superior to the power of order, but a jurisdiction at the service of the power of order. As for the "power of excellence", that is to say the power of instituting sacraments and conferring grace, that belongs to none but Christ, who communicated it neither to the Apostles nor to the Church (St. Thomas, III, q. 64, a. 4; Suppl. q. 17, a. 1, q. 19, a. 2).

2: Penance. Here we come to the most difficult point. Two things are to be carefully distinguished: a. the power of absolving, conferred by way of consecration; b. the conditions of its valid exercise, conferred by way of investiture.

a. By giving the Apostles and their successors the power of retaining or remitting sins (John xx. 22) Jesus gave them simultaneously the power to appreciate in each particular case whether to remit or to retain, and the power to pass a sentence not only signifying but also effecting the remission of sins. Priests, said the Council of Trent, are "as authorities and judges to whom all mortal sins are to be submitted" (Denz. 899). Their power, called the power of the keys, involves therefore two acts: that of taking cognisance of the sin (key of knowledge), and that of passing sentence (key of power) (cf. St. Thomas, IV Con. Gen. cap. lxxii; Suppl. q. 17, a. 3). There we certainly have a judicial power, "potestas judiciaria" (St. Thomas); "actus judicialis" (Council of Trent, Denz. 919). But an altogether exceptional judicial power. First of all because conferred by way of consecration, like the power of order (Suppl. q. 17, a. 2, ad 2), and not by way of simple investiture, like the power of jurisdiction; in fact it is the power of order and, as such, distinct from that of jurisdiction—"The character [sacerdotal], the power of consecrating, and the power of the keys [in the sacrament of penance]," says St. Thomas, "are essentially one same and sole reality; they are distinguishable from each other only by a distinction of reason" (Suppl. q. 17, a. 2, ad 1). Next because the judicial act, in Penance, not only signifies but also effects the remission of sins—" the words of the priest operate instrumentally in this sacrament by the divine virtue, as in the other sacraments," says St. Thomas (III, q. 74, a. 3, ad 3). The act of remitting or retaining sins is therefore a sacramental sentence, that is to say a sacrament having a sentential or judicial form (whereas the form is deprecatory in Extreme Unction and imperative in Holy Order). A "sacramental sentence"—is not that precisely the instrumental jurisdiction we have hitherto looked for in vain? And in fact it is, in my opinion, the one case of instrumental jurisdiction we shall have to retain. But a jurisdiction having this peculiarity: that it brings us out of the field of the jurisdictional power into that of the power of order: (" Sacramentalis absolutionis principium," says Cajetan, "non est potestas jurisdictionis, sed potestas ordinis" (Quaestio de Ministro sacramenti Poenitentiae, edit. leonina, vol. XII, p. 358, no. iii). There are but two powers, the sacramental power which adopts a form, whether it be indicative or deprecatory, or imperative, or sentential and judicial; and the jurisdictional power, declaratory or canonical, which is proper to the Church. The power of absolving from sin is a jurisdictional power of order, wholly distinct from the jurisdictional power of jurisdiction.

b. But from the fact that its form is judicial, the sacrament of Penance requires the intervention of the canonical jurisdictional power by its very nature and necessarily, thinks St. Thomas (Suppl. q. 8, a. 4). The Council of Trent seems to say likewise: "Since it is of the very nature of an act of judgment that the sentence can bear only on subjects", the Church has always considered that absolution given by a priest not jurisdictionally approved is invalid (Denz. 903). For since in the case of Penance the sacramental power takes on a judicial form, and since it would be impossible to exercise a judicial power on those in no way designated as its subjects, it is required by divine law, and by the very nature of Penance, that an ecclesiastical jurisdiction should intervene to designate the subjects on whom the priest's sacramental power of absolving is to take effect. In other words, the confession is to be made, not to any priest whatever, but to a priest who has been "approved". And without that, every absolution would be invalid for lack of valid matter on which to take effect; in the same manner, says St. Thomas, as a consecration uttered over any other than wheaten bread would be invalid. This is St. Thomas' constant doctrine; for example, "Omnis potestas spiritualis datur cum aliqua consecratione. Et ideo clavis cum ordine datur; sed executio clavis indiget materia debita, quae est plebs subdita per jurisdictionem; et ideo, antequam sacerdos jurisdictionem habeat, habet claves sed non habet actum clavium. Et quia clavis per actum definitur, ideo in definitione clavis ponitur aliquid ad jurisdictionem [ecclesiasticam] pertinens" (Suppl. q. 17, a. 2, ad 2). So also Cajetan at the place cited previously: "Sacramentalis absolutionis principium non est potestas jurisdictionis, sed potestas ordinis: potestas autem jurisdictionis concurrit quoad hoc solum quod facit de peccatore subditum, vel simpliciter, vel quoad talia peccata."

It may be objected that the Pope, who possesses the sovereign jurisdiction, cannot therefore be the subject of a sacramental absolution. The answer is simple: the sacramental absolution, which depends on the power of order, has for valid matter a sinner entitled to it by the power of jurisdiction possessed either sovereignly, and there we have the case of the Pope, or by way of participation, and there we have the case of the rest of the faithful. It is really on the penitent, not on the priest, that the power of jurisdiction bestows a favour, confers a right: the favour, the right, to be absolved by such and such a priest.

Here once more therefore, in the case of Penance, which seems to have been so needlessly confused, the ecclesiastical jurisdiction intervenes as a mere indispensable condition, and on the plane of material causality. It is at the service of the power of order.

(3) Confirmation and Order. The bishop is the only minister of the sacraments of Confirmation and of Holy Orders. Nevertheless a simple priest, duly invested by the Church, can confer Confirmation and certain degrees of Order. Does it not seem here that investiture by the Church intervenes in the field of the sacramental power?

With John of St. Thomas (III, q. 63; disp. 25, a. 2, no. 98; vol. IX, p. 345) we may reply: Every priest has, as a priest, the physical sacramental power to confer Confirmation and certain Orders. But this sacramental power can be inhibited as to its valid exercise by ecclesiastical jurisdiction; not in the case of bishops, because bishops, even if schismatic or heretical, can always validly exercise it under divine law; but in the case of simple priests. This general inhibition of the sacramental power of simple priests as regards the conferring of Confirmation and certain Orders, acts in the manner of an impeding condition, which remains, as in the preceding cases, on the plane of material causality. The jurisdictional act by which it is loosed in favour of such and such a priest in no wise therefore encroaches on the field of the sacramental power.

(4) Matrimony. This gives rise to several problems. How are we to explain, in the first place, the Church's power to fix the conditions of validity of marriages between the baptized? It must be said that God has empowered His Church to determine in the last resort the general aptitude of the baptized to contract a valid marriage. In the exercise of this right the Church intervenes—only in the order of dispositive or material causality.

How are we to explain the fact that the Church can dissolve a non-sacramental marriage even if consummated, and a non-consummated sacramental marriage?

Marriage is essentially a mutual donation and acceptance between spouses. Considered in itself and relatively to its ends this engagement, made for life and ordered to the whole work of bringing up children, is, in itself, indissoluble, that is to say it contains no internal cause of dissolution. That does not mean that it will be preserved from every exterior cause of dissolution; death, for example, will eventually undo it. To say that an angel is immortal is to say that in his essence there is no interior principle tending to disagregation; it does not mean that he is necessarily guaranteed against annihilation from without; absolutely speaking, God could suspend the influx by which He keeps the angels in existence. Likewise, though marriage is in its essence indissoluble, it is not guaranteed against annulment from without. But in the case of a consummated sacramental marriage, God, as we know by divine faith, definitively refuses to dissolve it otherwise than by death. The consummation, properly speaking, in no way touches the essence of sacramental marriage; it leaves it as it is, not even strengthening the bond. But it shuts the door against every attempt to dissolve the marriage from without. Why? Because God has so decreed. And this will of His, to start with, is clearly set out in Scripture and the primitive tradition, the full meaning of which has been brought down to us by the Church. But this will of God's is signified to us in another way. If, in sacramental marriage, the mutual donation and acceptance of the spouses signifies the "moral" union of Christ with our souls, a union which though meant to be indissoluble, is nevertheless liable to dissolution by the weakness of our wills, the consummation of the marriage signifies the "physical" union of the Word with human nature, which this time is so firmly sealed that it will remain undissolved forever. This doctrine is that of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. Thus therefore marriage is always indissoluble in its essence. In one case, that of consummated sacramental marriage, it is furthermore indissoluble by any action from without. In the other cases it is not exempt from such action. But since the sacramental bond is one of divine law it must be held that God alone could intervene to dissolve it.

He can declare His will either directly by an immediate revelation like that made to Osee (if, at least, we adopt the old exegesis); or mediately, through a human intermediary. Thus a divinely inspired declaration of St. Paul's notifies us that a baptized spouse can break with a pagan partner who refuses to cohabit (1 Cor. vii. 12-13); and similarly the infallibly assisted declarations of the Church teach us that in other circumstances a consummated non-sacramental marriage and a non-consummated sacramental marriage can be dissolved. In these last cases the Church merely declares with authority that by God's intervention such a marriage (not being a consummated sacramental one) is dissolved. Her part is purely "declaratory"—the declaration acting as a necessary condition. Theologians who reject this explanation affirm that the Church, besides the ecclesiastical jurisdiction that she exercises as properly her own, possesses a jurisdiction that she exercises as an instrumental cause, and in virtue of which she authoritatively looses the obligations of divine law resulting from marriage. To support their thesis they recall that when she teaches the truths of the faith the Church is already acting as an instrumental cause to bind and oblige consciences. But in proposing the truths of the faith the Church does not, strictly speaking, act as an instrumental cause to bind consciences; she simply declares, with authority, the revealed message—a message which we receive not on the authority of the Church, but on the immediate authority of God revealing, the formal object of theological faith.

(5) Indulgences. The problem of the distinction between proper and instrumental jurisdiction arises again in connection with indulgences. They remit the temporal punishment due to sin, not merely in the ecclesiastical forum but in the divine. All theologians agree that this is not in virtue of the sacramental power. There remains the jurisdictional power. Is it done then in virtue of an instrumental jurisdiction?

Jurisdiction cannot loose from the temporal punishment of sin as it looses from excommunication, from suspension, from interdict. A Parisian theologian, a disciple of Scotus, Francois Mairon (died 1325), fell into confusion upon this. Cajetan (Quaestiones de Thesauro Indulgentiarum, Quaesitum Primum, nos. II and III, edit. leonina, vol. XII, p. 359) replied that the forum of exterior ecclesiastical jurisdiction, to which pertain excommunication, suspension and interdict, must not be confused with the divine forum, to which pertains the temporal punishment of sin; and that if the Pope has power to loose all things in heaven and earth, it does not follow that he can loose them all in one sole manner only: in exterior matters he looses by simple ordinance, solo jussu; in interior matters he looses sacramentally if it is a question of sin (as to guilt and as to punishment); and also by way of interchangeability, of dispensation, drawing on the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and His saints, if it a question of the merely temporal punishment of sins already forgiven. Mairon, like Luther later on, if for quite other reasons, arrived at the same result: they both ignored the existence of a treasury of satisfactions left by Christ to the Church Militant (Denz. 550, 757, 1541).

When the Pope grants an indulgence releasing from temporal punishment it is always by way of transferability, by dispensing the treasure of the superabundant satisfactions of Christ and the saints (Denz. 551), wherein the faithful find the wherewithal to compensate for what is still lacking in their own good works. An indulgence is granted not by a sentence (as in excommunication) but by way of dispensation (Suppl. q. 27, a. 4, ad 3). Must we appeal to an instrumental jurisdiction to explain this dispensation? We think not. What is in question here is a communication, a transference of satisfactions, not of merits. Now, as St. Thomas points out, such a transference needs only a simple designation, so that here below any one of the faithful can transfer his satisfactions to any other (Suppl. q. 26, a. 1; q. 27, a. 3, ad 2). Christ and the saints have abandoned their superabundant satisfactions to the Church Militant, leaving it to her to dispense them, to apply them, that is to say to designate those to whom they are to go. It seems to us that here also this designation plays the part of a necessary condition, that it pertains to material causality, and that there is no need to suppose an instrumental jurisdiction. The Church, prescribing in virtue of her proper jurisdiction the good works needed to obtain the indulgence, thereby designates the subjects of the indulgence. The living, says St. Thomas, who can do these good works, receive the indulgence directly; the dead, who cannot submit themselves to the conditions prescribed by the Church, receive it only indirectly, by a transference to the forum of separated souls of that which we offer for them in the forum of this present life (Suppl. q. 71, a. 10; a. 12, ad 3). That is why we say that indulgences are given to the living by way of absolution, and to the dead by way of suffrage (cf. Cod Jur. Can. can. 911).

If these explanations are rejected it will be necessary to hold that the Church, in virtue of her jurisdiction, intervenes directly in the divine forum to apply the satisfactions of Christ in the manner of an instrumental cause. But if, without the sacrament of Penance, the Church can confer instrumentally the effect of the sacrament of Penance, we should have to conclude that she possesses the "power of excellence" which, according to St. Thomas, Jesus gave neither to His Church nor even to the Apostles. Cajetan agrees that the difficulty is serious. He replies that the Church would have the power of excellence if she thus conferred the total effect of a sacrament, but not if she confers only a partial sacramental effect (Quaest. de Thesauro Indulg. edit. leon. vol. XII, quaesit. iv, nos. i and vii, pp. 362 and 363). But is it necessary to fall back on this solution?

(6) Vows. A vow, a promise made to God relating to a higher good, obliges us in virtue of the natural law; and in virtue of divine positive law too: "If thou hast vowed anything to God, defer not to pay it; it is better not to vow than after a vow not to perform the things promised" (Eccles. v. 3-4). Yet the Church, in certain cases, dispenses from vows. Has she then, besides her proper jurisdiction, an instrumental jurisdiction exercised in God's name?

I am not thinking of the case in which the thing vowed becomes, owing to changed circumstances, manifestly illicit. The vow, which always relates to a greater good, is then extinguished of itself. That was Jeptha's case, who, if he sinned by imprudence in making his vow, sinned by impiety in keeping it (II-II, q. 88, a. 2, ad 2).

But how explain the power of a superior to release from a vow? The answer is given by St. Thomas, II-II, q. 88.

First, on God's part, I can vow to God only what belongs to me. If I vow anything not depending on me the vow is necessarily conditional (a. 8, ad I). It is worth nothing if contradicted by anyone entitled to dominion over me or over the thing vowed. Thus is produced an annulment or voiding of the vow (irritatio voti). This voiding is direct when it concerns the way in which I have disposed of myself; indirect when it concerns the object of which I have disposed. There is no difficulty so far. We may add that the Church annuls vows thus when, for example, she decides in advance that vows made under certain conditions, such as fear or immature years, are invalid.

We come to the dissolution of a vow by way of dispensation or commutation.

Some have thought that these cases are the same as the foregoing. Every vow is conditional. It is valid to the extent, and for the period, approved by the superior. The latter, even if proceeding arbitrarily, could, we will not say licitly, but at any rate validly, suspend the vow, and the inferior may then live with clear conscience. St. Thomas rejects this thesis (a. 12, ad 2).

In cases of dispensation or commutation we are concerned no longer with conditional but with absolute vows. The circumstances moreover are not such that it is clear to all, or to the better instructed, that they can loose the vow of themselves, as Jeptha might have done. Whenever there is total dispensation, or partial dispensation, that is to say commutation, the Church intervenes with authority to dissolve a vow that is valid and already operative. She avails herself of a jurisdictional power and not of a dominative power, as in cases of simple voiding. And because her jurisdiction was given her to edify and not to destroy, and cannot be valid either to command sin which displeases God, or even to interdict vows that are absolute and operative, which please God, the prelate who arbitrarily, that is without just cause, releases from such vows would act not only illicitly, as above, but also invalidly (cf. a. 12, ad 2).

By what right does the Church intervene? She has a mission, says St. Thomas, to judge with authority as to what, in the given circumstances, is the more virtuous thing and the more agreeable to God (cf. loc. cit.). But then, to dispense with authority from a vow under the natural law or the positive divine law, should she not have an authority, at least instrumental, capable of annulling the natural or the positive divine law? No, says St. Thomas. The Church pronounces, with authority, that what has been vowed as a better good, has become, hic et nunc, either bad, or useless, or opposed to greater things; and that the vow, on that account, has lost the quality that made it pleasing in God's sight (a. 10). In other words, just as, in the civil order, a dispensation is not directed against the law itself, but makes something which fell under the law cease to do so in some particular case—"cum dispensatur in aliqua lege humana, non fit ut legi humanae non obediatur. . . sed fit ut hoc quod erat lex non sit lex in hoc casu "—so, when the Church dispenses from a vow she authentically declares that what fell under the vow has ceased to do so, that what was matter suitable for a vow has ceased to be so. She lifts no hand against any precept of the natural or positive law; but she delimits, as to extension or duration, the obligation that flows from our human decision, which cannot weigh everything since foresight is short: "Fit ut hoc quod continebatur sub voto, non contineatur, inquantum determinatur in hoc casu hoc non esse congruam materiam voti. Et ideo, cum praelatus Ecclesiae dispensat in voto, non dispensat in praecepto juris naturalis, vel divini; sed determinat id quod cadebat sub obligatione deliberationis humanae, quae non potuit omnia circumspicere" (a. 10, ad 2). This delimitation, this determination, is made with authority: "In commutatione vel dispensatione votorum requiritur praelati auctoritatis, qui in persona Dei determinat quid sit Deo acceptum" (a. 12). And it does not follow, for all that, says Billuart, that the vow was conditional: "Licet. . . conditio subintelligatur respectu irritantis, non tamen respectu dispensantis—nisi intelligas: quando subest justa causa dispensandi" (De Voto, dissert. 4, art. 8, §5, dico 7).

Thus then it is the thought of St. Thomas that the Church's jurisdiction intervenes here on the plane of material causality, to determine the object of the vow. The Church makes use of the power we have called "declaratory".

As to solemn vows of religion, in whatever way interpreted, it is possible to explain, without appeal to any instrumental jurisdiction, how the Popes can dispense them; for example by an explanation of the type we have just employed. And if the solemnity of vows be regarded as pertaining to ecclesiastical law ("voti solemnitas ex sola constitutione Ecclesiae est inventa", Boniface VIII), the question is so much the easier.

Conclusions. If we are right, and have correctly understood the nature of those interventions of the Church which we have passed in review, the upshot of this note will be that it is neither necessary nor useful to appeal, as several contemporary theologians do, to the hypothesis of an "instrumental" jurisdiction—a jurisdiction that would amount either to the power of order or even to the "power of excellence", reserved in St. Thomas’ teaching for Christ alone, to the exclusion of the Church and of the Apostles themselves. The jurisdictional power of the Church does not, in my mind, intervene as a strictly instrumental cause. It always displays an initiative, either to "declare" immediately divine decisions (dogmatic or simply infallible definitions, dispensations from vows, dissolution of certain marriages), or else to promulgate the Church's own ecclesiastical decisions, some of which may condition the production of a divine action, whether sacramental (imposing conditions of validity to sacramental marriage and conferring of Confirmation by a simple priest), or extra-sacramental (determination of the conditions of an indulgence; determination of the mode of valid election of the Sovereign Pontiff). The ultimate determination of the matter and form of certain sacraments will belong to the declaratory power.

2. The Canonical Or Legislative Power

A. The Nature Of The Canonical Or Legislative Power

1. The Canonical Power's Derivation Prom The Declaratory Power As An Effect From Its Cause

The declaratory power acts as a condition manifesting a law that is immediately divine. The canonical power acts as the basis of a law that is immediately ecclesiastical or canonical, and only mediately divine. These two powers are clearly distinct. But they are not unrelated. The power of authoritatively "declaring" immediately divine decisions contains the power of "lawgiving", of promulgating decisions that are purely ecclesiastical or canonical, as the branch contains the leaves, as the nature of bodies contains their physical properties. It is not to be thought that Christ, who entrusted to His ministers the task of founding and perpetuating the Church, left them without the powers required for the concrete execution of this design. And if we remember that the declaratory power is truly jurisdictional, charged with the task of notifying men, not merely speculatively but authoritatively, of their duty to accept the revelation and to build up together the Body of Christ, we shall easily understand that this higher jurisdictional power needs to be completed by a lower one, competent to take all the canonical measures needed to organize and rule the faithful all over the world. It is because the Church is thus qualified to take all the measures demanded for the success of her mission among men that she can be called a juridically perfect society: "The Church" says Leo XIII, "is a society juridically perfect in its kind, [societas est genere et jure perfecta] because by the express will and loving-kindness of her Founder she possesses in herself and by herself all needful provision for her existence and action. . . For Jesus Christ gave full powers to His Apostles over sacred things, together with a true power of making laws, as also a two-fold right of judging and punishing, which flows from that power. . . It is to the Church that God has assigned the charge of seeing to and legislating for all that concerns religion, of teaching all nations, of spreading the Christian faith as widely as possible; in short, of administering freely and without hindrance, in accordance with her own judgment, all matters that fall within her competence."[411] And Pius VI condemned as heretical the proposition of the Synod of Pistoia, affirming that "the use the Church makes of the power received from God and exercised by the Apostles themselves to keep exterior discipline, must be regarded as an abuse of her authority."[412]

2. Its Extension And Particularization Of The Virtualities That Go To Form The Church

If the divine influx which generates and sustains the Church passes through the visible hierarchy, if it avails itself of the sacramental and jurisdictional powers, it is not in order to organise angels but to bring men together into a visible supernatural society, to incorporate them wholly into the organism of supernatural salvation. The whole Church of today, the Church as a visible society, as a perfect, independent, self-subsistent society, as a supernatural society, is virtually contained, as in its proximate cause, in the hierarchical powers.[413] First, in the power of order, which incorporates men in Christ at once by way of the sacramental character, a participation of the priesthood of Christ, and by way of sacramental grace, a participation of the inner sanctity of Christ. Second, in the power of jurisdiction (called for by the power of order) whose office it is to impart Christ's truth: primarily and principally by means of the declaratory power, divinely assisted in the strict sense; secondarily and dependently by means of the canonical or legislative power, divinely assisted also, but in a wider sense. Thus then, it is primarily by reason of the power of order and the declaratory power, not primarily by the canonical power, that the Church is built up into a visible society. But without the canonical power this visible society would never succeed in establishing itself, and would remain perpetually incomplete. The end for which this power exists is to prepare the ways whereby evangelical salvation may reach down to souls, and souls lay hold of evangelical salvation. It is divinely assisted; not, I repeat, as the declaratory power is assisted, but sufficiently to ensure that it does not fail of its purpose. We might compare the part played in the Church by the power of order and by the declaratory power to that of the arteries in an animal body, and that of the canonical power, looser and more supple but none the less necessary, to that of the lesser ducts and capillary vessels.

3. The Manner Of Its Representation In Scripture

If the declaratory power contains the canonical as a cause contains its connatural effect, it is clear that the scriptural texts that set forth the former—e. g. Jesus' promise to give the keys to Peter, and to ratify in heaven what he should bind or loose on earth (Matt. xvi. 19), or again, the passage in which Jesus entrusts His sheep and His lambs to Peter (John xxi. 17)—must set forth the latter also, at least consequentially and by implication. So true is this that St. Matthew, having reported a phrase that is clearly indicative of the canonical power of the Church, follows it up at once with another concerning the power of the Apostles to bind and loose: when the sinner will not listen, says the Saviour, "take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand. And if he will not hear them, tell the Church. And if he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and the publican.[414] Amen I say to you, [415] whatsoever you shall bind upon earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth shall be loosed also in heaven" (Matt. xviii. 15-18).

But it must be added at once that besides texts that indicate the canonical power in its cause, there are others that mention it directly. We are shown the Apostles taking all the disciplinary and prudential measures that circumstances of place and time require. At the Council of Jerusalem they decide to impose on the Christians of Antioch abstinence from things strangled (Acts xv. 29). St. Paul wishes the incestuous Corinthian to be expelled from the Church and excommunicated (1 Cor. v. 5), and those too who refuse the law of work imposed on the children of men (2 Thess. iii. 14). He regulates procedure among the Corinthians and, for prudential reasons, forbids temporal causes to be carried before pagan judges (1 Cor. vi. 1). He commands the Corinthian women to attend religious gatherings with covered heads (xi. 5). When he comes to Corinth in person he will put the rest in order (xi. 34). He organizes collections everywhere for the Church at Jerusalem (2 Cor. viii and ix). He fixes the age and qualifications of widows charged with a ministry in the Church (1 Tim. v. 9). He recommends the faithful to give temporal help to the elders who teach and preach (v. I 7).

Similar disciplinary measures were certainly to be necessary in later ages. Hence the Scriptures do not stop at showing us the exercise of canonical powers by the Apostles: we may see them besides being passed on to their successors. Full spiritual powers to feed the Church of God confided to them were left by Peter and Paul to the presbyters and bishops their successors, and no halting or insufficient authority to deal with those who should sow the seeds of false doctrine (1 Peter v. 2; Acts xx. 28-30). The Epistle to the Hebrews speaks of those prelates who, having been put in charge of the faithful, will have to render account for their souls (xiii. 17). Moreover the Churches had to take disciplinary measures even in the lifetime of the Apostles. St. Paul declares himself satisfied with the sanctions inflicted by the Church of Corinth on a certain insubordinate member, and now advises the removal of these sanctions by a second official decision (2 Cor. ii. 6-8).

4. The Words Power And Society To Be Applied To The Church And To The Civil Order Analogically And Not Univocally

This point is, I think, highly important. Are we to regard the Church and political society as two species of one and the same genus? Are we to say that it is as a visible society, and in virtue of the generic notion of a visible society, that the Church, like the State, possesses a legislative, judicial and coercive power: whereas it is as a supernatural society, and in virtue of the specific notion of a supernatural society, that she possesses the powers of order and of magisterium?[416] Or should we rather consider the Church and political society as two analogical realizations of the idea of society, essentially different, and having only a likeness of proportion? If it be held, as here, that the declaratory power contains the legislative, and this latter does no more than apply, so to say, the virtue of the former, it will not be possible to split up the Church so as to distinguish in her a specific aspect, supernatural and characterized by the powers of order and infallible magisterium, and a generic aspect, natural, social and visible, and characterized—like every political society—by a legislative, a judicial, and a coercive power. On the contrary, it is precisely inasmuch as she possesses the supernatural powers of order and magisterium, that the Church is social and visible. She must be considered as an essentially supernatural society through and through, having a simple likeness of analogy and proportion to political society, not a univocal likeness, even a generic one. Because this concept of analogy is wholly absent from Joseph de Maistre's book Du Pape, the great truths it contains are unfortunately mingled with serious errors.

5. Is The Church A "Society", Or An "Institution", Or An "Organism"?

In his book on Unity in the Church (Die Einheit in der Kirche), which appeared in 1825, Moehler wrote: "If the Church were defined as an institution [Anstalt] or a society [Verein] having the maintenance and propagation of the Christian faith for her end, only one of her aspects would have been envisaged. . . If we confine ourselves to calling the Church an institution we risk giving the impression that Christ merely commanded the gathering together of His own, without caring to instill into them any interior desire for union, any need to remain united. . . Who says ‘institution’ says ‘mechanism'. But the Church is a living ‘organism’."

The followers of Khomiakov, who are only imperfectly acquainted with Moehler, [417] likewise oppose the idea of the Church as an organism to that of the Church as a society or institution.

"According to our current ideas" writes G. Samarine, in his Preface aux oeuvres theologiques de A. S. Khomiakov, "the Church is an institution, an institution of a unique kind it is true, a divine institution, but an institution nevertheless. This conception errs, like all our current definitions and representations of the objects of faith; without directly contradicting the truth, it remains insufficient; it brings the idea down to too mundane a level, makes it too crudely familiar. It becomes involuntarily vulgarized by proximity to a group of phenomena apparently of the same kind, but really having nothing in common with her. . . One of the imprescriptible manifestations of the Church lies in her effective possession of a doctrine; in another of her manifestations, the historical, she makes effective contact with all other institutions as an institution of a kind apart; and yet the Church is not a doctrine, she is not a system, she is not an institution. The Church is a living organism, she is the organism of truth and of love; or, more precisely, she is truth and love as organism."

"Institution "means an order freely founded, and therefore also disputable and optional; "organism" is an order given by nature, profound, necessary, but ruled by the laws of biological determinism; "society" (family, city) results at once from a natural instinct and from human effort. None of these words can be applied univocally, that is without changing its meaning, to the Church. But if we take them analogically, proportionally, we may apply them all. For the Church was indeed freely instituted by the Saviour; [418] and yet her interior order is more profound and more wonderful than any work of nature. The Church is indeed an organism, the Body of Christ; and yet she is not subject to biological determinism; her inner order is spiritual, made up of truth, liberty and love. The Church is a society, [419] an assembly (that is the meaning of the word Ecclesia); and yet she results not from any natural instinct and human effort, but from the breath of the Holy Spirit and from a liberty transformed by grace.

Thus then, such words as power, institution, society, borrowed from human life, are not alone in needing transposition before being applied to the Church; the same is true of such words as organism, borrowed from vegetable and animal life. But precisely because the former notions lie nearer to us we are the more inclined to take them univocally and the less careful to transpose them when speaking of the Church, whereas the notion of organism, coming from lower levels, is more or less instinctively given an analogical sense. That is what Khomiakov does when he says that the Church is "truth and love as organism". I shall not reject this definition, but try to elucidate it and make it rather more precise.

6. The Limitations Of The Canonical Power

The declaratory power is of the divine forum; the legislative or canonical power is of the ecclesiastical or canonical forum. The first manifests a law that is immediately divine. The second manifests a law that is mediately divine, but remains immediately human. It is subject, on this account, to a double limitation.

First, being immediately human, it will chiefly prescribe those acts which fall normally under human observation, that is to say exterior acts. When it prescribes interior acts, this will be for the most part only indirectly and by concomitance, in so far as they are necessary for the validity, honesty and morality of the aforesaid exterior acts: the ecclesiastical law for example will recall that the minister of a sacrament should intend to confer it, that the penitent should be sorry for his sins, and that those who recite the canonical Office should be trying to pray. And indeed what exterior acts should it command save those directed to the Kingdom of God, acts which therefore ought to be valid, honest and moral? For we must never forget that although the ecclesiastical law is immediately human, it is not in the least like the law of temporal kingdoms: it is a more detailed determination of the revealed principles of a spiritual kingdom, a kingdom of grace and of truth; so that when it prescribes exterior acts it cannot but go down to their deep spiritual roots. It follows that in order vitally to determine the direction of our practical action, it will also prescribe our adhesion to the doctrines themselves whence this action is to proceed; and that in consequence we owe an assent not merely disciplinary and exterior, but also intellectual and interior, to the doctrinal decisions proposed to us, for instance by the Roman Congregations. The maxim De internis non judicat praetor is not to be applied simply as it stands to the canonical power.

Next, being immediately human, the canonical power ought to forbid, not all bad acts, but the gravest only and those that are specially hurtful to the neighbour. And similarly, it should not attempt to prescribe all good acts, but only those most needful for the common good or those again that are more within the power of the many. For every human law, even when mediately divine, is valid primarily only in the external forum, in which it would be imprudent to command all goods and forbid all evils.[420]

7. The Relations Of The Declaratory And Canonical Powers

The declaratory power addresses itself to all men. The canonical power never bears on any but the baptized. On these it can lay new duties; and to what is already prescribed for them by the divine law—and directly affecting the internal forum—it can add a new canonical obligation directly bearing only on external acts. Thus Pius IX, defining the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, an object of divine faith, invoked the canonical penalties provided by the law against those who should outwardly deny it.[421]

B. The Principal Subdivisions Of The Canonical Or Legislative Power

How is the canonical or legislative power to be subdivided? This too can be done from various standpoints. We may consider either the ends immediately envisaged, or the stages to be passed through before it comes down to the concrete conduct of men, or the various matters to be regulated, or the degrees of its realization. We shall have to take account of these subdivisions—or at least of the first two—in order to define the type of divine assistance promised to the canonical power.

1. The "Ends" Of The Canonical Power

The specific end of the declaratory power is to propose the divine revelation, the primary message of the Church, authoritatively and infallibly. The specific end of the canonical power is to enable the Church to take all measures required to facilitate that task. How shall we hierarchize these measures inter se?

Let us first of all distinguish those that aim at the direct protection of the divine revelation in our own souls by securing a favourable orientation towards it in our habits of thought and action. These measures constitute what we may call the secondary message of the Church. It comprises two types of imperative: first those of universal application, such as the general obligation to recognize the authority of the Fathers and Doctors, the laws of the Church, the permanent provisions of her canon law and so forth; and next, imperatives of a more restricted order, relating to the application of these general laws, and to what theologians call particular facts.

But there are other measures pertaining to the legislative and organizational power of the Church which must be put, I think, into a distinct group. They are not intended, like the foregoing, for the direct protection of the revelation in men's hearts. Their end is more remote: it is rather to ensure the biological and empirical existence of the Church in the world. The Church, a spiritual and visible kingdom which, like a magnetic pole, mysteriously attracts to herself all authentic holiness on earth, but finds her full being only there where she can exercise the sacramental and jurisdictional powers willed by Christ, must work to the utmost of her power to procure the temporal and political conditions that may give free play to these divine powers and provide the material and political support for her spiritual and supra-political existence. Hence a great complex of proceedings and provisions concerning her relations with political powers and with historical and cultural movements. For lack of a better term we may call them provisions of the biological order. Here we shall have to include all that is sometimes called—and the term can be justified—the politics of the Church, the politics of the Popes.

2. The Successive Instances "Of The Canonical Power

Considered under its practical and disciplinary aspect, the power we have called canonical, legislative, organizational, must, if it is to reach out to the concrete life of men, move through several "instances" or steps. From this standpoint it is commonly divided by theologians into, first, the legislative power—this term being taken strictly for the power of making laws, of promulgating enactments binding in conscience with a view to the common good; then the judicial power, or power of authoritatively determining the meaning of laws and of judging the conduct of those who are subject to them; and lastly the coercive power, or power to apply sanctions and to punish delinquents.

In his De Romano Pontifice (Book IV, cap. xv) St. Robert Bellarmine asks himself whether the Church can make laws, judge, and punish. Having made it clear that he is thinking of the ecclesiastical power as such (and not as having any temporal power annexed to it), and that he is considering only just laws (for unjust laws, e. g. any law compelling infants and the sick to fast in Lent, or forbidding the episcopate to the poor or to those of humble birth, are not really laws at all), he replies: "It has always been held in the Church that the bishops in their own dioceses and the Roman Pontiff in the whole Church, are true ecclesiastical princes, competent of their own authority, and without asking for the consent of the people or the advice of the priests, to make laws binding in conscience, to judge ecclesiastical causes as other judges do, and finally to punish their transgressors. "The scriptural and patristic texts which he adds in the following chapter of his work, aim at simultaneously establishing these three points; for it is important to insist that we are here in the presence, not of three specifically distinct powers, but of three successive instances of one and the same power, for the power of lawgiving, i. e. of effectually and authoritatively directing a multitude to its proper good, must needs include those of judging and of punishing.[422]

We may easily verify the presence of this distinction in the recent documents of the magisterium. Thus, on the 28th August 1794, Pius VI condemned "as leading to a system already condemned as heretical" the fifth proposition of the Synod of Pistoia stating that the Church "has not received from God this power which, not content with advising and persuading, goes on to make laws, and then to constrain the rebellious by exterior judgments, and by salutary punishments."[423] Here we recognize the division of the Church's power into legislative, judiciary and coercive. The same three-fold division is indicated by Leo XIII in the Encyclical Immortale Dei, of the 1st Nov. 1885: "Jesus Christ gave to his Apostles unrestrained authority in regard to things sacred, together with the genuine and most true power of making laws, as also the twofold right of judging and of punishing, which flows from that power."

Although the canonical power resembles the temporal power of the State in being divided into legislative, judicial and coercive functions, it must be carefully noted that these three words are not to be taken in an identical or univocal sense in the two cases, but in a proportional and analogical sense. "The civil power," writes John of St. Thomas," being ordered to a temporal and natural end, namely to the political good of the republic, it follows that the penalties and rewards and other means by which men are directed to their temporal end are themselves of the temporal order. The ecclesiastical power however is ordained to the supernatural end; and so also the rewards and penalties and all other means directing men to that end are spiritual and supernatural [if not in themselves, at least in their aim]. Consequently ecclesiastical penalties are always spiritual, not doubtless in the sense in which "spiritual" is opposed to "corporeal", but in the sense in which "spiritual" is a synonym of the supernatural and opposed to the natural. To be supernatural, the measures taken by the Church can be just as well material as immaterial. That is why all such things as external acts involved in the administration or reception of the sacraments, benefices and ecclesiastical offices, are spiritual and supernatural. And indeed even when the ecclesiastical power touches temporal things it is always with spiritual things in view "[424]—and because what was hitherto temporal has thus become spiritual, it now concerns the salvation of souls.[425] And the Encyclical Immortale Dei forcibly distinguishes the essence of the civil power from that of the ecclesiastical power: the one looks to human interests, the other to divine; the one procures perishable goods, the other heavenly and eternal goods, pertaining to the salvation of souls; the one is temporal, the other is supernatural and spiritual.

3. The "Matters" Envisaged By The Canonical Power

a. The canonical power, always spiritual by reason of its ends, may be exercised on a matter which is normally spiritual by nature, whether this matter be wholly and solely spiritual (disciplinary measures regulating the conduct of clerics, religious, laymen, the prudent administration of the sacraments and sacramentals, the practice of fasting and abstinence, the celebration of feasts and so forth), or only partially spiritual, or mixed [426] (effects of marriage, which are partly religious, partly civil, scholastic teaching aimed at producing both Christians and citizens).

The canonical power may also be exercised on matters usually civil, but become spiritual hic et nunc, by way of exception, on occasion; forbidding for example the citizens of a particular country to use their right to vote, as has recently happened.[427] Then again the Church intervenes under the special heading of defence of the altars; this is "the politics of the altar", and she herself takes the initiative in the political action or refusal of action.[428] To this activity of the Church belongs what has been called "civic Catholic action", an extension of Catholic action, intervening in political matters to defend the "values proper to the City of God", the "authentically religious interests as determined hic et nunc by the Holy See and by the episcopate".[429] Clearly we are here in the presence not of two powers but of a single spiritual power bearing on things that are spiritual whether ordinarily, by their very nature (if you like "directly"), or exceptionally, on occasion (if you like," indirectly").

Is it then permissible, in order to characterize these two types of Church intervention, to avail ourselves of the well-known distinction between the "direct power" and the "indirect power"? That, I think, is bound to lead to confusion. It seems preferable to speak of a single power, concerning itself with matters which are either ordinarily spiritual or incidentally spiritual. The distinction between the "direct power" and the "indirect power" will then serve to characterize two kinds of interventions of the Church which I regard as formally distinct.

b. From another point of view, but always in respect of the matters on which it bears, the canonical power can be divided into a speculative power and a practical power; or, rather differently, into a magisterial power and a disciplinary power. These last divisions, which affect the entire jurisdictional power, whether declaratory or canonical, will be dealt with further on.

4. The "Degrees Of Realization" Of The Canonical Power

On the natural plane the preceptive or legislative power is subdivided, according to the degrees of its realization, into political power, also called the power of jurisdiction, which looks to the good of the perfect community, of the city; and the economic power, also called the dominative power, which looks to the good of the imperfect community, of the family: the power of the father over his sons, of the husband over his wife, of the master over the servant.[430]

If we now transpose this division to the supernatural plane, on which all authority descends from the Sovereign Pontiff, it can be said that the canonical jurisdiction, taken in its widest sense, subdivides into, first, the spiritual power of jurisdiction in the strict sense, relating to the universal Church considered either in itself or in its parts, i. e. the local Churches; and then a spiritual dominative power representing the normal power of superiors of religious communities over their subjects.[431] Female religious superiors, who cannot receive the sacrament of Order, have no jurisdiction in the strict sense; but they have a spiritual dominative power, which is a form of jurisdiction coming from Christ, and imparted by the Sovereign Pontiff.[432]

5. Table Of The Divisions Of The Canonical Power

The end of the declaratory power is to propose the divine revelation infallibly.

The canonical power is divided according to
1 its ends which are
1 .1 to protect the revelation by imperatives
1 .1 .1 of the universal order
1 .1 .2 of the particular order
1 .2 to assure the empirical existence of the Church
2 its instances
2 .1 the legislative power
2 .2 the judiciary power
2 .3 the coercive power
3 its matters
3 .1 which are spiritual
3 .1 .1 normally
3 .1 .1 .1 wholly
3 .1 .1 .2 partially (mixed matters)
3 .1 .2 occasionally
3 .2 which are
3 .2 .1 either
3 .2 .1 .1 speculative
3 .2 .1 .2 or practical
3 .2 .2 or
3 .2 .2 .1 magisterial
3 .2 .2 .2 or disciplinary
4 its degrees of realization
4 .1 strict jurisdictional power
4 .2 dominative power

Before leaving this first division of the permanent jurisdiction into the declaratory power and the canonical power, I shall have to devote a long chapter to the study of the canonical power considered both in its relations with the temporal order and in its coercive form. The questions we shall discuss are important, although secondary as we shall realise if we recall the subordinate part played by the canonical power as compared with the declaratory power. Nevertheless—or perhaps partly for this reason—these are some of the most debated questions within the Church, and they excite strong feelings outside.



(1) There is something tragic, writes Fr. Tyszkiewicz, S. J.[433] in the attitude of the Orthodox theology, which shows such a longing for an all-embracing charity, yet theoretically overlooks one of the indispensable factors in the realization of the full life of charity, namely a canonical organization of a divine character.

Some light can be thrown on this question from an ecclesiological standpoint by showing, as we have just done, that the declaratory power, necessary for the full development of theological life, contains the canonical power as a cause contains its connatural effect; and by showing how the New Testament itself bears witness to these two jurisdictional powers, so inadequately distinguished by Orthodox theology, to which nevertheless correspond things so different as theological faith and filial obedience.

Fr. Tyszkiewicz takes up the same problem from the spiritual standpoint, by showing that charity flourishes only in the soil of obedience: "The fact is that all Christian spirituality, both Catholic and Orthodox, rests always on these three fundamental virtues: humility, as an absolutely indispensable condition for receiving God's help; charity, as the soul of all holiness; and obedience, as the sovereign means for realizing all virtues and giving them consistence, since the mere upsurge of a sterile velleity is no true embodiment of charity. That is why the great ascetics of primitive oriental Christianity, St. John Climacus for example (Scale, IV, 3, 4), already taught that we must obey like "a living corpse". Obedience always played a capital part in the lives of the true Russian Orthodox saints. Without obedience to men as instruments of God, there can be no Christian life, no life in the Church, no union of hearts in charity."[434]

(2) That the role of the moral virtue of obedience in the Christian life is capital is written on every page of the Gospel and of the Fathers of the Church.

We can put this more precisely by distinguishing several forms of obedience. They range from that noted by Pascal and consisting in submission to circumstances—"If God Himself gave us our masters we should obey with a ready heart: now these masters are to be found in necessity and in events"—to that which consists in submission to human persons considered as God's ambassadors or representatives: first on the natural plane, where we find for example the authority of the father in the family and of the State in society; and then on the supernatural plane, where we find the authority of the director of conscience, the paternal or "dominative" power of superiors in religious families, and the strictly jurisdictional authority of the hierarchy throughout the Church. The various forms of obedience corresponding to these various authorities, all enter on due occasion into the web of Christian life.

Moreover we should never lose sight of the greatness of obedience. We should underestimate it, writes Dom G. Morin, if we looked only at its negative side, considering it simply "as an indispensable condition of the existence and development of every religious society", since "the individual, drawn to this society by a stirring of piety, must submit to its laws to form a part of it, and must do nothing to hinder its normal activities". St. Benedict, on the contrary, spoke of the obedientiae bonum, to be sought above all else on entering the monastery; the feeling of the religious for his abbot is to be "a genuine desire, a sort of respect as for Christ Himself, something like that which must have been felt by the first Christians after the Lord's ascension. Hearing the Apostles speak of their Master, must they not have cried out: Oh, if we had only lived with Him, if we had ourselves received His commands from His own mouth, what joy, what honour for us it would have been to obey Him in the least things! How then, Paul would answer, know you not that Christ speaks in me, loquitur in me Christus? (2 Cor. xiii. 3). Now it is not only in Paul, nor in the other Apostles, that Christ speaks, but in all their legitimate successors, in all accredited pastors, according to their place in the ecclesiastical hierarchy. It is to all of these that Jesus said: Whosoever heareth you, heareth me" (Luke x. 16).[435]

Finally, to say that obedience should be virtuous is to say that it should be far-seeing, not inconsiderate, prudent, not servile and mechanical; and if we can praise the kind of obedience called "blind", it is exclusively that which goes forward in the transluminous light of faith, more indubitable than all the evidences of one's own judgment.

If we hold to these precisions, and to the singular privileges that issue from the jurisdictional power, declaratory as well as canonical, of the Sovereign Pontiff, we can say with Fr. Tyszkiewicz, that since the startchestuo—that is, the practice of allowing oneself to be guided in one's inner life by a holy director, expert in the traditional spirituality, to be obeyed without hesitation even in matters of doctrine—is the basis of all the old Orthodox spirituality, the Russian thinker Constantin Leontieff was right "to see in the Papacy the fulfilment and fullness of a very Orthodox and traditional principle; for him, the Pope is the staretz startsev, the director of the consciences of directors of conscience, to whom complete obedience is due precisely because obedience to a legitimate authority is the motive power of the inner life, and makes us capable of receiving the grace of the Holy Spirit, the soul of the Church."[436]

(3) Tyranny and servitude may be properly opposed to liberty. But it is always an error to oppose authority and obedience to liberty. The correlative notions of authority and obedience are found again, transposed, on the supernatural plane which is the plane of liberty par excellence. To the authority that declares an object of faith, revealed by the infinite authority of the First Truth, corresponds the "obedience "of theological faith; to the canonical authority corresponds another species of obedience, pertaining to filial piety and the infused moral virtues. Both these "obediences "liberate; the one from the limitations of human reason, the other from the limitations of the egocentric and individualistic life. Fr. Tyszkiewicz perceives that "amongst the modern Orthodox theologians the view predominates, propagated especially by Khomiakov and Dostoievski, that in matters of faith and the supernatural life authority and liberty are mutually exclusive ideas; and since liberty, as appears above all in the Epistles of St. Paul, is of the essence of Christianity, authority ought to be abolished. For them, liberty is more especially divine life, creative spirit, spontaneity, joy in the Holy Spirit; whereas the idea of authority necessarily involves a reign of servile passivity, of narrowness, of spiritual death."

It suffices to reply, with the author: "It is clear enough that submission to an illegitimate authority, especially when this submission is inspired by interested motives, whether individual or collective, would prejudice the spiritual life, paralyse faith, kill supernatural joy, arrest the movement to God; we still feel today the disastrous effects of the various Caesaropapisms, eastern and western. But Christian submission to a hierarchy willed by Jesus Christ is not to be judged by the results of subordination to a usurping authority. Obedience to men inasmuch as they are instruments of the will of God in matters of religion, attaches the faithful to God who is the source of all liberty, of all life, of all joy, of all spontaneity. This positive obedience is the potent lever of our liberty, the indispensable condition of the true spiritual life."[437]

Moreover we can add with the same author that there are few ways of escaping from the authentic canonical power without, in practice, falling into the hands of tyrannical and unwarranted jurisdictions. "A juridico-canonical system, organically perfect, healthy and solid, is the best assurance against the penetration of canonicism into the interior life of the Church. We cannot too strongly insist on it: Catholicism, precisely in virtue of its strong canonical co-ordination, preserves the supernatural sobornostj against the untimely invasions of legalism. What the Orthodox theologians so deeply fear, the ‘Vatican’ with all its precise juridical apparatus, is a solid dyke against the unchained floods of an undisciplined ‘legalism’, such as arise when no authority exists able to put an end to the interminable polemics on the rights of such and such a particular Church, or such and such a social element within the Church: we know how prejudicial these polemics are to charity, to the sobornostj. What might be called unilegalism tempers the paralysing action of centrifugal and desiccating multilegalisms. It is the lack of juridical precision that gives rise to most of the conflicts which bring disaster on the organic universality of Christian charity."[438] Orthodoxy suffers from a hypertrophy of legalism. "In Catholicism, one alone is infallible in virtue of his office, and within the strict limits laid down by the Vatican Council, without prejudice to the infallibility bestowed on the Church as a whole: whereas elsewhere, the guardian of the faith being nonexistent or replaced by a ‘general consent of all’, ineffectual because too abstract, each group of Christians, national, international or other, tends to arrogate to itself, in fact if not in theory, the right to be the authentic interpreter of the Church, and more or less consciously requires all Christendom to submit to its decrees. An assurance of its own infallibility, or that of its milieu, often makes itself painfully felt in certain Orthodox theological works. That is what V. V. Rosanoff, Orthodox himself, and the enfant terrible of modern Russian religious thought, has strongly emphasised in his famous book Pres des murs de l'Eglise."[439]

(4) Fr. Tyszkiewicz believes in an authentic Orthodoxy. It was that which existed "during the period when, while retaining its character as an oriental Christianity, it formed an integral part of the Catholic Church."[440] Freed from the paralysing protection of the Caesaropapist state it tends today "to purify itself and flourish religiously. In the persons of its noblest representatives it achieves a better understanding of itself and of the great role that God has in store for it in the Christian future. It seeks, gropingly, no doubt, the sources of the religious dynamism of the great Doctors of the Church; it aspires to find in itself and in the rich Eastern religious traditions, a renewal of life, of liberty, of action on mankind."[441] Will it overcome the temptation to prefer a mechanical or "photographic" fidelity to the ancient Church to a genuine and organic fidelity? If it does, the Catholic Church will seem in its eyes to be "the Christian confession in which are organically and vitally continued the ancient general movement of the Church, the ancient progressive march of dogmatization (as certain Orthodox writers say), and the old reactions of the Flavians, the Cyrils of Alexandria, or the Theodore Studites against the dangerous paths of an interested separatism."[442] The accord will form around the great Catholic principle in these matters, namely "the plenitude of brotherly life in Jesus Christ, maintained by the full use of all the means willed by the head of the Church for the fulfilment of charity."[443]

We too, on our side, shall have to allow ourselves to be always more and more perfectly subjected to our Church, which is divine. "We are, alas, too little Catholic, too narrow, too exclusively attached to the culture of the West in general, to our paltry national prerogatives and pretended Latin superiorities."[444] Furthermore those who work for union with the Orientals should more closely assimilate—doubtless after all the needful purifications and completions—all that is healthy, positive, living and creative in the Orthodoxy of today. For "would it not be a crime to refuse to cultivate the riches of Orthodox moral theology, also of the Russian ascetic, liturgical and pastoral theology, with all that careful solicitude which the spirit of the Catholic Church demands? Could we not communicate to our oriental enterprises some of that fragrance of the Gospel beatitudes which is so characteristic of the high Russian piety and whose spiritual charm is unmatched elsewhere in the world?"[445]

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