Editor's Note: It's time to catch up on our seasonal correspondence. Here's an excerpt from an e-mail of a follower who has carefully studied our arguments urging "One-Hand Dan" to seek conditional ordination and consecration. We confess that this is a very popular e-mail topic, and interest in it is increasing. That's why we're working overtime to produce a document summarizing our rebuttal/refutation of Tony Baloney's error-infested defense of one-handed orders. It will be ready in English this fall, and we hope a Spanish translation will be available by late winter.
This is a minor point, but can you explain what Father Cekada meant when he wrote [in his monograph on one-handed orders, section III], "To assert that imposing one hand instead of two renders a priestly ordination doubtful runs afoul of yet another principle in sacramental theology: form determines matter"? Did Father Cekada mean that as long as the sacramental form was correct, you could use one or two hands or even an elbow, or your middle finger or your right big toe to designate the receiver of the blessing?We've said before that we won't try to divine what goes on in the Blunderer's untutored noggin. When we re-read section III of his monograph, we could see the grounds for our correspondent's observation. However, we can't imagine even Tony Baloney's affirming that anything other than hands (or, in his case, one hand) would do. He's just such a sloppy thinker and writer that he opens himself up to attack because he leaves so much out. Inasmuch as his monograph was obviously intended for both the clergy and the laity, he should have explained what determine means in theological and philosophical parlance (assuming he knows the technical definition).
Below is a shortened version of a long, detailed answer to our correspondent. Much of what we had to say was amply covered in last year's thoroughgoing rebuttal/refutation of the Blunderer's monograph "The Validity of Ordination with One Hand." Nevertheless, since our correspondent raised an issue we hadn't directly addressed, and since it's always of value to reaffirm our position given that it's often misrepresented as an effort to prove Dannie's orders are invalid, -- for us, they're doubtful -- we thought we'd share the substance of our reply with the reading public.
The word determine, in a Scholastic context, doesn't mean, as it sometimes does in American English, "to settle or decide by a choice of alternatives or possibilities." There's no choice of the matter of a sacrament since no one can change the Church's definitions. (Although, come to think about it, Cekada did, in fact, try to do that very thing with his perverse translation of Pius XII's apostolic constitution, didn't he? [see, v.g., here and here, for a refresher].) As a term of art in Scholastic philosophy, determine means "to cause a definite perfection." Thus in the phrase "form determines matter," the word determines means "actualizes."
In Catholic theology, the terms matter and form are taken by analogy* from Aristotle's hylomorphic theory where, to use John O'Neil's lucid explanation, "substantial form actualizes primordial matter, and thus produces a substance that has a determinate existence, a natural activity, and an intelligible essence."** The difference between Aristotle's doctrine of the principles of nature and the application of his terminology to theology is that the union between sacramental form and matter is moral, not physical.***
In addition, there's no reason to give any credence to Cekada's assertion in section III that "To question the validity of an ordination conferred with one hand turns this principle on its head: Matter (one hand or two) ends up determining what form signifies." Pope Pius XII infallibly defined (1) the specific form and (2) the specific matter that would result in ordination to the priesthood. After 1947, there can be absolutely no doubt. The matter of the presbyterate is NOT an optional "one hand or two" as Cekada writes, because the Pope declared that the sole matter is the first imposition of the bishop's hands, performed in silence, not the continuation thereof by stretching out the right hand. And the essential words that determine, or actualize, the imposition of the bishop's hands are Da, quaesumus, omnipotens Pater...insinuet.
Therefore, the issue has been settled, and no amount of verbal gymnastics, mistranslation, or special pleading can change it. By questioning the validity of one-handed conferral of priestly orders, no one is turning any "principle on its head" by illogically asserting that the undetermined element determines the determining element. (We leave such Groucho-Marx argumentation to Tony Baloney, Uneven-Steven McFaker, and the rector.) The truth is that Catholics who harbor doubts about the validity of one-handed priestly ordination are faithfully adhering to the abundantly clear supreme teaching authority of the Church.
The Blunderer did get one thing right, though: he used the word questioning. As we've always insisted, despite the moronic claims of Dannie's zombie defenders, we don't affirm that his one-handed ordination is invalid, for the simple reason that the Church has not officially ruled on the issue. However, in light of Pius XII's explicit teaching, one-handed ordination is questionable. Is it valid or not? Who knows? But until we get an authoritative ruling from the restored Church, we must invoke the sovereign principle of sacramental theology: in dubio pars tutior eligenda est -- when in doubt, we must choose the safer side. Remember: historically, the Church has always chosen the safer path with respect to the administration of the sacraments.
Accordingly, as Pistrina has always maintained, the only way for the faithful to be certain of the validity Dannie's orders is for him to seek re-ordination and re-consecration. Once he does that, then he must conditionally re-ordain the 14 losers he ordained when he mistakenly relied on Cekada's now demolished findings. Nothing could be easier.
* One acquaintance of ours related how his chance discovery that the cult's five-and-dime "theologian" didn't understand the analogical usage in theology of the terms matter and form convinced him that the sedes were gross amateurs. Here's his account:
In the late 1990s, I had driven down to Sharonville [the former cult-center location] one Saturday afternoon to transport a recently ordained Mexican priest to the chapel I attended. As the young priest was readying himself to leave, "the great theologian" entered the room and joined our conversation. The priest, who had studied under the learned Fr. Ricossa in Italy, casually brought up the materialiter thesis. The "eminent author" sarcastically denied its viability saying, 'You can't have matter without form.' I remember giving him the oddest look, but I held my peace. On the journey back, the young priest pressed me about my reaction. I explained that matter-form terminology is an adaptation of Aristotle's physical theory of substantial change and had to be understood in the moral, not the physical, sense -- noting that's why a penitent who on one day confesses his sins may still be validly absolved a day later because, irrespective of the time interval, the matter and form compose one moral act. For the same reason, I argued, we can have a pope materialiter. The young priest smiled as though I were confirming his own doubts about the "scholar's" vaunted "learning." After that episode, I began to scrutinize everything the man said and wrote. Soon I realized his "scholarly" reputation was manufactured. In future conversations with the Mexican priest, he always smiled cynically when the "theologian's" name came up.** H.J. Koren, C.S.Sp., Readings in the Philosophy of Nature, p. 183 (Newman Press, 1965).
***For a brief treatment of the issue, see Pohle-Preuss, The Sacraments, vol. 1, pp. 62-65 (found in Book Five, Volumes VIII - IX, in the new Loreto reprinting).