Supplied jurisdiction & traditional priests

This conference of Bishop Tissier de Mallerais explains how traditional priests can administer sacraments even when their sacramental faculties have been removed.

The following article is extracted from Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais's notes for a conference given to the Catholic Study Groups in Paris, March 9-10, 1991.

Related to the topic of supplied jurisdiction, we also recommend Fr. Ramon Angles canonical study, The Validity of Confessions & Marriages in the Chapels of the Society of St. Pius X.


By Fr. Peter Scott

State of the question

Many have asked how traditional priests can continue to administer the sacraments, and especially hear confessions, when they have had their sacramental faculties removed by the local ordinary.

The following considerations will help you to understand not only the injustice of this, but also how these priests are clearly entitled to use supplied jurisdiction. It is obvious that the present crisis in the Church is not foreseen in Canon Law.

Consequently we must base our activity on the juridical analogy taken from the general norms of the Codes (Canon 20 in the Old Code and Canon 19 in the New Code), which state that if there is no express law concerning a special situation, the rule must be taken from:

1) laws promulgated for similar circumstances. The similar circumstances are those in which the Church supplies jurisdiction on account of the grave danger to souls. They are the cases of:

  • common error concerning a priest’s jurisdiction: Old Code [i.e., the 1917 Code of Canon Law, forthwith "OC"] Canon 209 (New Code [i.e., the 1983 Code of Canon Law, forthwith "NC"] 144).
  • positive and probable doubt: OC 209 (NC 144). This can be concerning jurisdiction or common error or danger of death.
  • non-cognizance to the fact that jurisdiction has expired: OC 207.
  • danger of death: OC 882 and 2252 (NC 976 and 1357). Those who cannot find a suitable confessor for a long period of time and who are consequently in danger of spiritual death must be assimilated to those in danger of death, according to the principle of Canonical Equity (see below).

2) the general principles of canon law, which inspire the particular laws. The two principal ones are:

  •     the salvation of souls is the highest law (NC 1752).
  •     the Sacraments are on account of men.

3) recourse equity. This is recourse to the mind of the legislator (when there is nothing explicit in writing), who never wants his legislation to be too onerous (burdensome), but always wants it to be interpreted in a just and favorable manner. That it is indeed the mind of the Church to be generous in the granting of jurisdiction and not overstrict or onerous is also apparent from the following two canons:

  • OC 2261 §2 (NC 1335). The Church suspends its prohibition for an excommunicated or suspended priest celebrating the sacraments or posing acts requiring jurisdiction, provided it be in favor of the faithful who request it for any reasonable cause at all, and especially if there is no other minister.
  • OC 878 §2 (NC 970). Ordinaries and superiors are not to restrict jurisdiction. If the priest is suitable and the good of the faithful requires his services this jurisdiction cannot be refused to him. Clearly traditional priests should in justice receive personal jurisdiction and that everywhere (NC 967).

It is clear that, given the present circumstances of crisis in the Church and the principles of Canonical Equity, given the general principles of the law, and the Church’s continuous practice of supplying jurisdiction for the good of the faithful whenever it foresees that this lack of jurisdiction would be to their detriment, traditional priests receive supplied jurisdiction from the law. This is with the understanding that personal jurisdiction is unjustly refused to them simply because of their attachment to the Faith and its traditional expression (inseparable from the Faith), and that the faithful cannot be expected to continually search out and judge for themselves which confessors in the Conciliar Church might be acceptable and might give them the spiritual advice they need (given that the vast majority do not).

In conclusion, therefore, it is obvious that, besides the case of common error, besides the case of probable and positive danger of death as interpreted in the broad sense of spiritual death, traditional priests receive a iure (from the law itself) a supplied jurisdiction for all cases in which this jurisdiction is required. This is simply the application of Canon 20, notably of Canonical Equity. There are no solid arguments against this and since there is at least a positive and probable doubt in favor of this argument, and we know that in such a case the Church certainly supplies jurisdiction, then traditional priests can and must act accordingly and the faithful can and should approach them for Confession.

In the case of marriage this conclusion need not be applied. For OC 1098 (NC 1116) describes situations when even a priest without jurisdiction can validly assist at a Catholic marriage, namely when there is a major "inconvenience" for more than one month (as, for example, the New Mass or the liberal pre-Cana classes).

All depends on whether the crisis in the Church is recognized or not. Those who refuse to see it will refuse the recourse to OC Canon 20 (NC 19). Those who understand its gravity will all agree on the force of these canonical arguments for supplied jurisdiction presented by Bishop Tissier de Mallerais in the following pages.

Bishop Tissier de Mallerais addresses the problem

I. The problem: the absence of jurisdiction?

A problem is immediately apparent to you, as I am sure you are aware. What authority do these priests, these bishops, these district superiors, this Superior General and these traditional communities have in the Church? You ask this not only because they are, so we are told, excommunicated, but also because they do not receive their authority from the hierarchy of the official Church. Our priests do not receive the power to hear confessions from the diocesan bishops. The Priestly Society of St. Pius X has no longer any "official existence." The bishops of the Society, they say, did not receive their authority from the Holy Father. What right therefore does this traditional clergy have to require of you, the laity, to depend on it in your Catholic action?

It is this objection to which I am going to reply. What is the authority of the traditional Catholic clergy in this crisis situation, and, in particular, what is its authority with respect to traditional Catholic study groups? The thesis is the following (I can review it briefly before explaining it):

Your traditional priests—for they are your priests—your traditional bishops and your traditional parishes, have no ordinary authority, but an extraordinary authority which is a supplied authority.

Then, I will strive to examine the concrete aspects of this supplied authority of the traditional clergy so as to apply them to the case of your "Catholic Action."

Supplied jurisdiction

To explain this, let me use the example of confession in normal times. The traditional clergy has no ordinary authority over the faithful, for it has not received this authority which we call jurisdiction. It has not received it by delegation or by mandate of the Sovereign Pontiff or the diocesan bishops or of regularly appointed parish priests. This is the concrete case, especially for the priests of the Society; for example, for confessions.

You know that for the validity of a confession, the priest must have the power of hearing confessions. He normally receives this power from the bishop, but it is quite obvious that in the present situation this is impossible. Does this mean that our confessions are invalid? No.

We already resolved this question a long time ago, explaining it to the faithful as a case of necessity. Here we fall back on principles which are very elevated in the hierarchy of principles of the Church. This is the case where the Church directly confers jurisdiction on a priest without going through the different degrees of the hierarchy. It is the Mystical Body of Our Lord, Our Lord Himself as Head of His Church, which gives jurisdiction to priests in some particular cases.

Do you know, for example, the case of what is called "common error"? When a priest is in a church and has no jurisdiction, but is in stole and surplice, and one of the faithful asks him to hear his confession, this priest can indeed hear his confession, although he has as such no faculties. The reason is that the person is in error in believing he does and that is what we call "common error." In such a situation the Church makes up for the lack of jurisdiction for the good of the faithful.

Another situation is when a priest is no longer sure whether or not he has jurisdiction. There is a doubt. The Church resolves the doubt in favor of jurisdiction. Likewise in the case of danger of death. If a Catholic overturns his vehicle, and is in an emergency situation any priest has the power of hearing his confession even if he does not necessarily have jurisdiction. In such a case the Church opens wide the doors of her mercy and gives jurisdiction to any priest. It is the Church herself which gives jurisdiction, without involving the hierarchy.

"Ecclesia supplet"—"the Church supplies" (for the spiritual good of the faithful)

These three cases are foreseen by Canon Law, and the same principle applies in each of these three cases; namely that for the good of the faithful, that is their spiritual good, the Church assures, as much as possible, that they have the means available necessary for salvation. That includes the Sacrament of Confession. We therefore say "Ecclesia supplet"—"the Church supplies,"—when the priest lacks jurisdiction. Another rule of Canon Law applies: "Salus animarum suprema lex"—"The supreme law is the salvation of souls." Consequently the Church supplies for an absence of jurisdiction. It is therefore not the good of the priest which is in question. It is not to reassure the priest that he has jurisdiction to hear confessions. it is the good of the faithful which matters. It is very important to understand this. It is for your own good that your priests receive a supplied jurisdiction, that is to say for the common good of the Church and not for the personal good of the priest.

For the good of the faithful in these three cases, "Ecclesia supplet"—"the Church supplies."

I have spoken to you of the jurisdictional power of the priest, which is the power of governing. Let us say a few more words about it.

Jurisdiction: the power to feed a flock

Does a priest lack something when he is ordained a priest? Would there be something missing from his priestly character which the diocesan bishop has to add by word, "Here, I give you jurisdiction," as by waving a magic wand? Would a word from the bishop give something extra to the priest? No, it is not quite this.

Jurisdiction is the fact that the bishop gives a flock to his priests, or that the pope designates a flock for a bishop by giving him a diocese. Jurisdiction is the power which a superior has over his flock and which a pastor has over his sheep.

This is what the power of jurisdiction is: the power to feed the sheep.

You certainly know that in the Church we distinguish between the power of Holy Orders and the power of jurisdiction. When Our Lord said, "Go into the whole world and preach the gospel," "docete omnes gentes"—"and teach all nations,"—it was the power of jurisdiction which he gave. "Teach," or, "Teach them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:19), that is to teach the—commandments of God. Thus to direct the flock is the power of jurisdiction.

Just beforehand Our Lord had spoken to His apostles of the power of Holy Orders: "Baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matt. 28:19). This is the power of Holy Orders, which is the power of sanctifying, which depends directly upon the priestly character. It is the power to celebrate Holy Mass and to sanctify the faithful by the Sacraments. There must therefore be something besides the priestly character, by which the priest or the bishop receives from his hierarchical superior a part of the flock. It is that which is called the power of jurisdiction.

The supplying of jurisdiction in times of crisis

In the present situation of crisis, it is obvious that your priests cannot receive from their superiors in the church, that is to say from the diocesan bishops and from the pope, a flock, because that flock is refused to them. This authority over a flock must, therefore, be given to them in another manner: that is, by substitute or supplied jurisdiction.

In this case it is the Church herself which gives to priests a power as the power of the pastor over his flock. Normally the power of Holy Orders, brings with it the foundation or basis of a power to organize the Church in a hierarchy. Thus the priest’s or the bishop’s power of Holy Orders normally brings with it the power of jurisdiction. It is normal for a bishop or a priest to have a particular flock over which he exercises his power of Holy Orders. But in the present situation we have to deal with the abnormal situation where the power of Holy Orders is unjustly deprived of the power of jurisdiction. It is in this case that the Church mercifully supplies jurisdiction in favor of you, the faithful, giving the jurisdiction your priests would otherwise not have.

This is therefore an extraordinary power, which is an exceptional case. In exceptional situations there are exceptional powers.

The general extent of supplied jurisdiction

It is not only present for confessions, but also for the entire priestly ministry. There is no reason to limit it to confessions alone.

And, you are indeed aware that jurisdiction is sometimes necessary for a priest to validly administer the sacraments. This is the case, first of all, for confession. It is equally the case for a priest assisting at marriage. If he does not have jurisdiction the marriage is null and void. Although the two spouses are the ministers of the sacrament, the Church has added a supplementary condition for validity, that is to say that the matrimonial consent be exchanged before the official witness of the Church, which is normally the parish priest. It is quite obvious that our priests do not have this power in an ordinary way. They can only receive it in an extraordinary way by the Church’s supplying of jurisdiction. In fact we here depend on OC Canon 1098 §1, which dispenses from the necessity of the presence of a priest having jurisdiction for the marriage to be valid when it is foreseen that such a priest cannot be found.

Normally jurisdiction is necessary for licitness, that is to say, in order that the act of the priest be licit, or, permissible. For example, to preach a priest must have a mandate, or, for a bishop to confirm in another diocese than his own, he must have a mandate from the diocesan bishop. In order to ordain priests a bishop must normally have jurisdiction and this is, of course, all the more so for the consecration of other bishops. For an episcopal consecration he must have a Pontifical mandate.

This same principle is supplied throughout. In an exceptional situation the Church supplies for this absence of jurisdiction on the part of the priest or even the bishop.

And the more serious the crisis is, the more necessary it will be to fall back on this supplying of the Church on a higher level. This is what happened on June 30, 1988, when Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated four bishops with Bishop de Castro Mayer as co-consecrator.

The case of necessity for the traditional faithful

The fact that heresy, and even apostasy, is widely spread amongst the clergy, leaves the faithful, and especially those who want to keep the faith and the true religion, as sheep scattered and without a pastor.

You can easily see, my dear friends, that it is the case of necessity amongst the faithful which is responsible for the fact that traditional priests and bishops have a supplied jurisdiction with respect to your needs. This is not only so that they may validly hear confessions and validly assist at marriages, but also for all of the acts of their priestly or episcopal ministry.

For confessions, you certainly remember that Archbishop Lefebvre invoked the principle of the "danger of spiritual death" of the faithful. Just see the unhappy faithful who have no priests of certain doctrine, and who sometimes even doubt the validity of their confessions: "Does this priest really have the necessary intention so as to validly absolve?" They can readily doubt this. "If I can no longer go to confession then I am exposed to fall and perhaps to fall into grave sins. Who knows? My eternal salvation is at risk, I am in danger of spiritual death."

The Church supplies, for the Church places ipso facto (by the fact itself) this Catholic under the jurisdiction of a priest. The Church places this Catholic as a sheep of a priest who will be his pastor for a determined case. Thus is established between the faithful Catholic and his priest a relationship as the sheep or the lamb with respect to the shepherd. The only thing is that this relationship of authority does not come from a delegation from the hierarchy of the Church, but by the Church, the Mystical Body of Our Lord, herself supplying.

II. Characteristics of supplied jurisdiction

Let us strive to describe the characteristics of this supplied jurisdiction.

1) first of all it is a supplied jurisdiction. This is its definition. It is the supplying for the absence of jurisdiction in a priest or a bishop: "Ecclesia supplet." It is neither the pope nor the diocesan hierarchy which gives their flock to the traditional clergy, but the Church, and Our Lord Jesus Christ as Head of His Mystical Body. It is they who sanction and declare this case of necessity for the faithful.

"I have mercy on this crowd," Our Lord said, "for they are as sheep without a shepherd." This would indeed be your case if there was no traditional clergy. The Church takes account of this abnormal situation and therefore links you up with traditional priests by that link of authority which makes a pastor and a flock.

This is supplied jurisdiction. The Church supplies for the absence of the ordinary link between you and your priests. It creates a link on account of your spiritual needs.

2) it is a personal and not a territorial jurisdiction. It is very important to understand this. Your priests have jurisdiction over your persons and not over a territory.

Traditional priests have jurisdiction over each one of their faithful who come to their chapel or traditional church or traditional convent or priory, and they do not have jurisdiction over a determined territory as for example the territory of a parish.

So when we say that "our churches are our parishes" it is true, but we must see that it is true without technically being the same thing.

3) finally, the third characteristic of this supplied jurisdiction is that it depends a great deal on the faithful.

Allow me to explain. It is the state of necessity of the faithful which creates between the priest and the faithful the relationship of authority or supplied jurisdiction. Take for example Archbishop Lefebvre, who, when the French episcopacy failed to do so, sent a telegram to the representatives to declare that they would fall under the pain of excommunication if they voted for a law favoring abortion.

But in order that such a ministry and such admonitions be fruitful it is necessary that the faithful in question accept them willingly. It is inasmuch as you do not refuse to receive from your priests the ministry which they have the right to exercise for your good, that is to say for the good of the Church, that the jurisdiction that you in a certain way give them will be able to be fruitfully exercised.

Normally, a parish priest can take hold of a sheep which is perhaps a little mangy and say to him authoritatively: "Look out, come back to the Church!" But in our case the admonition of this suppletory pastor will only bear fruits if the sheep recognizes first of all that relationship of authority which has been created in his favor by the very case of necessity. This is the limit and the practical fragility of the organization of our traditional parishes.

"Your chapels are your parishes"—It is exactly inasmuch as you accept the principle of supplied authority of the priests and of its exercise over yourselves, that their authority over the flock will be extended, efficacious, genuine, continuous and broad. It is quite obvious that if you do not want to ask anything from your priests, or very little, they will be paralyzed. Archbishop Lefebvre said, and it is perfectly true, "Your chapels are your parishes, consider your priories and your chapels as your parishes, that is where you are. Do not return to your former parishes, which have fallen into the hands of the modernists." Consider your chapels as your parishes! But in saying that, Archbishop Lefebvre had no intention of usurping for his priests an ordinary jurisdiction that they do not have.

He had the intention of making you realize and making you understand, you faithful laymen and laywomen, that it is your duty to ask from your traditional priests and chapels for the entire priestly ministry which is normally exercised in a parish. It is your duty to ask for all of the priestly ministry that they are able to provide for you. It is your duty to entrust yourselves completely to your traditional priests. You have not simply to ask of them a Mass, a baptism, or a sermon and that is all. If this were the case you would paralyze the priest. He cannot exercise his total ministry in all of its fullness under such circumstances.

III. Consequences for the attitude of the faithful with respect to the traditional clergy

What are the consequences of this principle which seems to be very important for the attitude of the faithful?

Formerly, the parish priest had simply to speak and everybody obeyed. It was the word of the gospel and everybody obeyed!

Obviously this is no longer the case. An appropriate state of mind must therefore be established in the faithful with respect to the traditional clergy. There must be on the part of the laity a voluntary submission to the clergy. They ought to feel the need for their souls to be totally dependent on the priestly ministry in all of its amplitude. I think that this is a requirement of the sense of the Church. If you have the sense of the Church, that is to say the sense of the hierarchy of the Church, you will understand this.

The "sensus Ecclesiae," the sense of the Church, on the part of the faithful, will make them learn to avoid two snags, that is to say, two dangerous attitudes which, as always, are opposed to one another. Errors, as you know, are always in the direction of too much of something or too little of it. The truth is situated as a summit above the two opposed errors of too much or too little. The truth is not a liberal, compromising middle point between the two.

I say therefore that there are two dangerous attitudes which exist in the present crisis in the Church, and which are opposed to the sense of the Church. Neither of these opinions is in conformity with the divine constitution of the Church: whether it be the error by excess, an error in the direction of too much, or the error by default, in the direction of too little.

The error by excess: "The Catholic hierarchy no longer exists. Let us therefore create a new one!"

The error in the direction of too much is to say that all bishops, or nearly all, have apostatized from the Catholic Faith, or at least that they no longer preach it and that consequently there is no longer a legitimate hierarchy: that there is no longer a legitimate pope nor legitimate bishops in the Church. Hence the true Catholic hierarchy, and the only one which exists, consists of traditional priests alone. According to this idea, it is the traditional clergy alone, with their exterior hierarchical organization, which would make up the hierarchy of the Church. Consequently one of the bishops would have to be elected as pope and this would complete the hierarchical appearance!

Certain sects have not hesitated to do just this: they have fallen into the trap. This is quite obviously false. We refuse this analysis and its consequences. Without a doubt we can indeed question the legitimacy of certain bishops, and one can even have questions concerning that of the pope himself. But these are but questions. We do not have the authority to decide on these questions.

The Church will herself judge. A future council or pope will decide on the mysterious situation of this Pope John Paul II and his predecessor Pope Paul VI. It is not for us to judge. We do not have the power. Even a single bishop does not have the power to decide on these things. It is the Church who will have to resolve this problem as she will without doubt do.

It will without doubt not make a decision saying "This pope was not pope." I do not think so, for this has never happened in the Church, to say that this pope was not a pope. But it will be declared: "This was a bad pope... who professed errors... and even heresies!" Hence we cannot say that the hierarchy of the Church no longer exists. It has in large part defaulted, but we cannot say that it no longer exists. We cannot say this.

Secondly, we cannot say either, that the Society of St. Pius X, (since it is especially the Society which is concerned, for it has bishops and superiors), is constituted in a hierarchy in the same way as the hierarchy of the Church with a pope, bishops, parish priests, etc. It is not at all the same thing. It is similar, but it is not the same thing.

At every degree it is but a supplied jurisdiction

The hierarchy of the Society, and the only hierarchy it has, is a substitute hierarchy. Its priests have power directly over the faithful in their priories, in their parishes, and in their traditional chapels. The district superiors have power over their priests. But in principle that is all the power they have. According to the constitution of the Society they have in principle no power over the faithful. But on account of the crisis in the Church they have a supplied power over the faithful.

Here the principle of subsidiaries is to be invoked. This means that that which your simple priests in the priories cannot do, the district superior will make up for, and this for the good order of our priories. The district superiors also have to look after the apostolate of their priests and hence have relations with the faithful. But this is a supplied jurisdiction. Likewise the Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X has in principle no direct power over the faithful, but he will all the same exercise his authority for important questions and difficult matters, which the simple priest or even the district superiors cannot resolve. This is a supplied power in virtue of the principle of subsidiaries.

Hence at all levels of the hierarchy of the Society, and the hierarchy of Tradition (if you wish), there is only a supplied power and not an ordinary power. Consequently, there is no way that it can be said that Archbishop Lefebvre constitutes the Church. There can be no question of the "Church of Lefebvre" as the newspapers report it. There is simply the Catholic Church with its incomprehensible and generalized failings, and in the Catholic Church the clergy which has remained entirely faithful to the Faith, and with, because it was necessary, a certain organization, and bishops with their power over the faithful but which is only a supplied power.

This is the Error by Excess: to say that there is no longer any hierarchy in the Church, and that we must therefore create a jurisdiction and submit ourselves to this jurisdiction. We may as well create a new church! This is an error, for we cannot create a church.

Error by defect: "Our priests do not have jurisdiction. Therefore, we are free!"

The error in the direction of too little would be to say that the traditional priests in our priories and in the convents have not received jurisdiction from the pope or the bishop and have therefore no power over us. "What right have they to require something of us? We are indeed free! Let us stay free! We are free to place ourselves under their authority or not."

Such a mentality is also a danger which is opposed to the sense of the Church. This would be to take advantage of the crisis in the Church because of the appearance of freedom which it gives. It is especially dangerous for the lay apostolate where, it is true, there is a large part of freedom. For very often the tasks performed by lay people are not the specific tasks of a priest, such as, for example, to spread the Christian social order in the State.

There is, therefore, a certain element of autonomy in the Catholic action of the laity. This is true. But it is not the sense of the Church to dispense oneself entirely from every link with the hierarchy. To say this on account of the crisis in the Church, because "the traditional clergy has no ordinary power over us" would be to really lack a sense of the Church. Let us therefore avoid these two snags of either going too far or not going far enough.

The paradoxical situation of certain laymen

We are at the present moment in a rather paradoxical situation with respect to Catholic Action. I speak of your action as lay Catholic men and women in the Church and in the state. A few decades ago, La Cite Catholique, and then the Holy Office, had a great deal of difficulty in finding support from the clergy. They looked for bishops and they found none except Archbishop Lefebvre. They looked for chaplains but Archbishop Lefebvre warned them, "Look out! Death trap! Do not look for chaplains in the present clergy, for they are all progressive and they will torpedo you! Therefore develop your organization without priests, since the situation is like this."

So, you see, these founders of La Cite Catholique, who had a profoundly Catholic spirit, were obliged to found an organization of Catholic action in the strict sense without priestly support, on account of the failure of the priests (or at least without the support of the hierarchy).

Just recently their successors, who follow them in their fight for Tradition, chose a few months ago to deprive themselves of their dependence on the clergy. This is not the same thing, for now there is a good clergy, now there are priests, and good priests I hope, and priests who are well formed. They are not all specialized in all political and social questions, of course, but they know the major principles. And now I say to these laymen and women, now that you have a good clergy how can you deprive yourselves of the priestly influence over your Catholic action? This would be a paradox!

This is always under the pretext that traditional priests do not have jurisdiction! But they do have a supplied jurisdiction. It is you who have to appeal to this supplied jurisdiction. I therefore say that the sense of the Church, the sensus fidei, must persuade faithful laymen and laywomen to willingly submit their apostolic activities to the traditional clergy. This is the proper order. It is the sense of hierarchy to submit your Catholic action to the counsel and higher guidance of the traditional hierarchy, to use the words of St. Pius X. This corresponds to the hierarchical constitution of the Church. It is necessary for the faithful to understand this well, and all the more since the clergy cannot, strictly speaking, require this dependence since it has no ordinary jurisdiction over the faithful.

Requirement for virtue on the part of the laity

You see, then, that I must insist on the moral necessity of an appropriate state of mind in the faithful. There are special moral requirements linked to this time of crisis. This exceptional situation, which gives only a supplied jurisdiction to the priests, requires on the part of the clergy, of course, quite some tact, prudence, and wisdom. For they cannot demand to exercise a strict right (hence the clergy has to understand the principles which are relevant). But this situation requires on the part of the laity virtue, a hierarchical sense, a sense of the need which you all have, namely of having a link by which you depend upon the traditional clergy in all the amplitude of their priestly ministry and in all the amplitude of your apostolic action.

I think that I could summarize these remarks in a brief phrase: your submission and your dependence with respect to the clergy must be as voluntary as the clergy have less right to demand it.

This therefore requires moral virtue on your part. It is for you, faithful Catholics, to seek for this profitable and necessary dependence in your traditional study groups. This does not mean that the priest is going to do everything. The priest will be, as Fr. Bonneterre remarked, "the counselor, the guide, the doctor" but not necessarily the organizer. He will remain in his spiritual domain, but the laity will retain this indispensable link of dependence.

IV. Supplied jurisdiction and present lay apostolate

Let us very briefly apply these principles to traditional Catholic study groups. This morning I tried to summarize the idea of Pope St. Pius X, who distinguished two sorts of apostolic endeavors for the laity:

1) Direct participation of the laity in the priestly apostolate inasmuch as it is possible. This includes the education of youth, teaching in our schools, and special, more properly apostolic youth movements which have as their purpose the conversion of souls. It is obvious that such a movement has an essential dependence with respect to the clergy. It would be quite erroneous to say that such a movement is a movement of Catholic action in the strict sense of the word, with a relatively loose dependence on the clergy.

From the very fact that it is for the conversion of souls, it follows that there is an intrinsic dependence on the clergy. The same applies to the Catholic Scout movement and the Legion of Mary which had as its purpose, by the intercession of Our Lady, the conversion of souls. This is, if you wish, a participation in the priestly ministry on the part of the laity, and consequently it requires a mandate. The priest gives a mandate to the laity to exercise a part of his priestly apostolate.

2) Quite different is Catholic action understood as a work of the Catholic laity in the temporal order, so as to bring about the reign of Christian social principles in the State. It is this which St. Pius X strove especially to promote, and which can be called Catholic action in the strict sense of the term. We cannot say that such Catholic action, because it is not the ministry of the priest, is independent of the priest. St. Pius X, as I reminded you this morning, said that "One cannot at all conceive of this Catholic action of the faithful independently from the counsel and higher guidance of ecclesiastical authority."

It is an essential distinction. Pope Pius XII, following Pius XI, blurred somewhat its importance, which is not without consequences [cf. Bishop Tissier de Mallerais’ article, "Catholic Action Defined" for a comprehensive explanation of this matter—Ed]. He simply spoke of a gradation in the dependence of works of Catholic action on the hierarchy. The more a work is properly priestly the more must it have an intimate dependence on the priest, and the more a work properly belongs to the laity the more tenuous the link with respect to the clergy. That which is constant in all of the popes is the teaching that there can be no question of giving total autonomy to the laity in their action. This is impossible. This is repugnant to the Catholic sense. It is repugnant to the sense of hierarchy in the Church.

The sacramental basis of the hierarchical spirit in the Church

As I said to you this morning, everything is founded on the characters given by the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and holy orders. Baptism and confirmation make us sons of the Church, brothers in Jesus Christ and soldiers of Christ, witnesses of Jesus Christ. Hence the necessity of spreading the Gospel. But they do not make you members of the hierarchy. It is alone the character of the sacrament of holy orders which constitutes the hierarchy, and is therefore responsible for organization in the Church.

The two characters of the sacraments of baptism and confirmation are dependent upon the character of the sacrament of holy orders. If you have understood this well you have but to apply these principles to our traditional Catholic study groups. The priest does not do everything but he is the inspirer, the guide, the counselor, and the doctor who brings back to mind the major principles, who maintains the correct doctrinal position, and who avoids deviations. We are for hierarchies, because we are Catholic we are for hierarchies. We wish to respect the hierarchies which are divinely instituted, whether they be supernatural or natural.