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Blessed Anna Catharina Emmerick

St. Peter Society FSSP

Rev. Rama Coomaraswamy, MD

Are The Priests of St. Peter's Society "Massing" Priests? (part 1)

"I saw again the new and odd-looking Church which they were trying to build. There was nothing holy about it... People were kneading bread in the crypt below... but it would not rise, nor did they receive the body of Our Lord, but only bread. Those who were in error, through no fault of their own, and who piously and ardently longed for the Body of Jesus were spiritually consoled, but not by their communion. Then my Guide (Jesus) said: 'THIS IS BABEL."
The Blessed Anna Catharina Emmerick

It was often asked of "priests" in the time of Queen Elizabeth, if in fact they were "Massing" priests - that is to say, did they offer the true Mass and validly administer the other Sacraments. After the Elizabethan destruction and with the passage of time, some of those in the Anglican communion increasingly rejected the doctrines and the spirit of the Reformation. As a result segments of the so-called Church of England became identified as "High," "Middle" and "Low" Church congregations. Those who considered themselves "High Church" tended to retain more and more of the Roman-like ritual; some even returned to the use of Latin in their services and followed the old ways as much as was allowed. Needless to say, many High Church people claimed that their "rites" were valid and that their priests truly confected the Eucharistic Species and validly administered the other Sacraments.

The Catholic Church, always seeking to protect her faithful from error, and always desirous of proclaiming the truth, denied both the validity of Anglican Orders and, Baptism and Marriage apart, the validity of the other Sacraments they administered. The "Ritualists" (as some of these Anglicans were called) claimed that their Sacraments were valid because of the evident graces that they received when participating in them. We hear the same arguments put forth today with regard to the post-Conciliar sacraments.

What follows is a discussion taken from the writings of Father Peter Gallway, a Jesuit who wrote over 100 years ago, in which he shows that our sensible response and subjective conviction about the validity of the Sacraments is no assurance whatsoever of their validity.

* * *

"There are many who, without any reference to history or any study of documents, declare that they cannot doubt but that they are in the enjoyment of the sacraments, and that their clergymen are true priests. What are we to say to these?"

"In the first place, we must strive to find out on what grounds they reach this certainty. And after examination, we shall find, brethren, that their evidence amounts to this. First: "Father Cuthbert is so good a man, that it is quite palpable that he is a real priest" and secondly: "Our sacraments are undoubtedly real sacraments, because nothing short of real sacraments could make me feel as I do when I receive them"."

"With regard to the first point, as I have already fully discussed the question of the sanctity of the Ritualistic clergy, I need not now stop to examine whether Father Cuthbert's holiness is such as to prove him a true priest. I will only say, that though the Sacrament of Orders imprints a character on the soul, it is only very rarely, and by an exceptional miracle, that this character is made visible to the eye of the beholders. Moreover, I would venture to add that if St. Francis of Assisi, who never would receive priest's Orders, were brought before us wearing a chasuble, there are few eyes upon this earth that could detect that he was not a priest. There are multitudes of pious monks, lay-brothers, and laymen, who if dressed up in sacerdotal robes would assuredly pass for priests. Nay, more than this; even piety is not essential. Since as St. Paul argues, if the Evil One can pass himself off as an angel of light, therefore it is no great thing if his ministers be transformed as the ministers of justice (2.Cor. XI). I do not think, then, that a well-instructed jury would give a verdict in favor of Father Cuthbert's priesthood simply because he looks the priest and walks as a devout priest."

"Now, therefore, let us come to the second argument: "Our sacraments are real, because nothing but real sacraments could make me feel as I do"."

"I need hardly say that few arguments are so hard to answer as arguments of this kind, which are drawn from those inward regions of our own consciousness into which no one but ourselves can penetrate to test the evidence. When a man who belongs to the party of the extreme Low Church tells you gravely that he is quite happy because he has within him an assurance that he is of the number of the elect, what sort of answer can you make? If you could see into his soul you might have your answer, since perchance you might discover that he is only proving by his words that he is not free from that frailty which, according to the Psalmist, belongs to all men - omnis homo mendax. You might ascertain that, instead of a settled assurance of salvation, there is in his soul a large amount of remorse, terror, and uncertainty. Again, if you were permitted to call in an experienced physician and submit the assurance to a pathological examination, you might discover some explanation of it in the state of the brain, or in the exceptionally effective state of the digestive organs, or in the judicious use of a little wine which "gladdens the heart of man;" but when you are left without any of these aids, you can do nothing against this inward assurance of the Evangelical, the happy feelings of the Ritualist which prove the truth of his sacraments are cousins-germain. It is the same difficult and delicate task to deal either with Evangelical or Ritualistic feelings."

"There are, however, some things to be said on the subject which may suffice to convince many Ritualists that it would be very unsafe to conclude that sacraments are true sacraments because the recipient of them experiences certain devotional feelings, just as it would be, on the other hand, very rash to pronounce against the validity of a sacrament because it awakens no pious emotions."

"1) First, then, it is quite clear from the teaching of Holy Church, that grace is often present in the soul in great abundance without being felt at all. A saint, for instance, may lie in a fit of apoplexy, awaiting the moment of death, his soul richly adorned with Divine grace, the presence of which, however, is not indicated by any feelings. Nay, the soul may be full of grace, and the feelings may give evidence in the opposite direction, and lead us to suppose that grace is not present. Hence when our Blessed Lord cried out on Mount Calvary, "My God, my God, why hast thou abandoned Me?" He was, as the Holy Fathers teach us, uttering a word which was to reassure many a holy soul passing through the hour of desolation, during which the grace that is present is hidden, and all seems dark and full of sin. In like manner, the presence of the grace given in Baptism is, in an ordinary rule, not betrayed by any outward sign discernable to the eye or the senses... In conclusion, oftentimes the feelings and the senses are as much at fault with regard to the presence of grace in the soul as they are with regard to the presence of Our Lord's body under the sacramental species..."

"2) In the second place, we must bear in mind that when God gives grace to the soul, whether it be a grace manifested by feelings or a more hidden grace, He sometimes uses the ministry of men as a medium of communication, and sometimes acts without such ministration. We see a specimen of both these methods in the story of the Wise Men. Sometimes they are guided by a star, sometimes by the teaching of priests. At the present time, therefore, as in all former ages, our Father in Heaven sends down His graces in these two ways, sometimes through the channel of Sacraments, and sometimes without the interposition of Sacraments. In fact, from the very nature of things, it is only at occasional intervals that we can receive a Sacrament, whereas every day and every hour we are in want of graces which come to us without the intervention of priests and Sacraments."

"3) Thirdly, in addition to this it is certain from the teaching of the Church, that when a Sacrament is duly administered, grace may come to the recipient in two ways to which technical names have been given - (a) ex opere operato; (b) ex opere operantis.

That is, first, by virtue of the work done; secondly, by virtue of the disposition of those who take part in the administration of the Sacraments.

Thus, when Baptism is properly administered, our Blessed Lord, in His charitable compassion for the souls of men, has ordained that the Sacrament shall take effect, although the priest who baptizes may himself be in a state of grievous sin. So long as the minister of the Sacrament intends to do what the Church prescribes, and actually performs the prescribed rite and pronounces the appointed words, the Sacrament will confer grace by virtue of the work done, even though the priest should chance to be a wicked man.

On the other hand, if an adult were receiving Baptism, and had prepared himself for it by many fervent prayers, and if, moreover, the priest baptizing were a very saintly man, and besought God with great earnestness to grant many graces to the catechumen, in this case, over and above the sanctifying grace given by virtue of the work done, there would be additional grace given in consideration of the good dispositions of the catechumen and the ministering priest. This is the grace called ex opere operantis.

This being so, let us suppose a case in which a pious man desires to receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord in Holy Communion, and prepares himself for that holy Sacrament with much earnestness, and presents himself at the altar with very lively sentiments of faith, hope, and charity, and a strong desire for the life-giving Bread; and let us further suppose that by some unusual accident an unconsecrated host is given to him instead of the Sacred Body of our Lord. Under these circumstances what effect will be produced on his soul? He has not received a true Sacrament, and therefore he will not receive the grace, which we have described as given ex opere operato - by virtue of the sacramental work done. No Sacrament has been administered, and therefore the effects proper to the Sacrament will not be produced by virtue of any sacramental act; but he has brought with him to the altar very good dispositions; he has prepared himself with much care, and he has in spirit and desire received the Body of Our Lord, and made very fervently what is called a spiritual communion. Consequently, he now receives in good measure the graces that come ex opere operantis, that is, in consideration of the good dispositions which he brings with him; and therefore he may retire from the altar much happier and more fervent than many others who have received the true Sacrament; and to the end of his life he may never become aware of the fact that he did not receive anything more than unconsecrated bread."[1]

"Grace then may be given, and devotional feelings may be excited in the soul, in consequence of the good dispositions of the man or woman who comes to take part in any holy rite; but in this case, the devotional feelings aroused are no proof that any real Sacrament has been administered. It is easy to illustrate the doctrine by an example which Ritualists will have no difficulty in comprehending. A Communion Service is periodically celebrated in the Baptist meeting-houses or Tabernacles. The celebrant is a layman who does not pretend to any sacerdotal powers. He has received no sacrament of Orders, nor does he believe any ordination to be necessary. He is a layman, and nothing more. Therefore, every well-instructed Ritualist will affirm that what he gives the people can be nothing but ordinary bread and wine. There is no administration whatever of the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist. A ceremony is performed, but it is not the Sacrament. Now let us suppose that some simple-minded man in the congregation prepares himself with great fervor for this rite, and has an earnest desire to be fed by the Body and Blood of Our Lord; this being so, there is no reason why this devout man should not, in consequence of his good faith and his earnestness, draw down a blessing on himself and much peace to his soul. If he goes home happy and light-hearted, his feelings are no proof that a true Sacrament has been administered. At the most they can only prove that grace has come to him, not through virtue of a Sacrament, but by virtue of his good disposition."

"This being so, would a jury of good theologians admit that Anglican Orders are valid, that ritualistic Clergy are true priests who really consecrate and validly absolve, merely because a certain number of Ritualists experience devotional feelings when they have recourse to the ministrations of the clergy? Assuredly, not. We all want evidence of quite another kind before we can admit that Ritualists have true priests among them, and have the benefit of true Sacraments."[2]


[1] Conservative Novus Ordo Catholics who are adequately informed about these issues and are aware of the doubtful nature of the post-Conciliar sacraments, cannot use this as an excuse for attending such sacraments. The term "ex opere operantis" is commonly understood by the faithful to mean an increase of sancifying grace according to one's dispositions in receiving valid sacraments. It would only apply to the receiving of invalid "sacraments" if the individual were invincibly ignorant of their invalidity.

[2] Father Peter Gallway, S.J., Lectures on Ritualism, Burns Oates: London, 1878. Emphasis was added.

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