Today's topic is a postscript to NOTHING BUT A NAME, which we published here on July 8. Like that post, this one was occasioned by an e-mail from a long-time friend of PL. The subject of the interchange was the incompetence of a certain trad "bishop" (not a member of the SW Ohio-Brooksville cult). In reply to a judgment the Reader-in-Chief had made, our correspondent admitted,
"In my candid opinion, none of these so-called bishops should ever have been made bishops."We've often heard a similar sentiment from dozens, if not scores, of traditional Catholics of all ecclesiological persuasions. A few of the Readers may have written something to that effect on these pages. Furthermore, in all likelihood, many SW Ohio-Brooksville cult members must certainly share the same reservation about "One Hand," Tradzilla, and the Jellyfish, yet they soldier on notwithstanding their misgivings.
As we discussed our correspondent's remark, lamenting that so many otherwise intelligent Catholics think they have to put up with idiocy and bad behavior from "THE Bishop" (LOL), one of us had an "ah-ha!" moment:
"The problem with traddies," our inspired colleague interjected, "is they can't tell the difference between the orders and the office. They think if a man has episcopal character because of consecration, even though he got it illegally, he automatically has the 'right stuff' — along with a brief to lead Catholics."She was so very right on the money!
In the real Church, there's a long vetting process to identify candidates who have what it takes to become the ecclesiastical ruler of a diocese (or run a Vatican department). Until the Church is satisfied a man has the requisite training, temperament, and experience, he remains a priest. No such screening process, however, obtains among the sedes. They're all self-elected, despite the pretentious nonsense you may read on their websites about pondering at length their "election" before "reluctantly" accepting the burdensome dignity. (Give us a break, will ya!)
In Sedelandia there are, first of all, no dioceses to rule, hence no flocks to shepherd. There's no episcopal office in that desert wasteland. What we have in Tradistan and elsewhere is a topsy-turvy mess. Episcopal orders are freely given, contrary to Church law, to untried, untrained, un-Tridentine religious entrepreneurs, who'll never occupy a diocesan or titular see and will never enjoy any of the privileges of a Roman Catholic prelate. (For the paying trad laity, the most significant disability of these fake "bishops" is that they do not have the benefit of the daily privileged altar on which a plenary indulgence may be gained for a soul in Purgatory.)
Inasmuch as the episcopate may only be held inside the historic, institutional Church, not one of these interlopers can properly be called a bishop, a word that comes from the Greek ἐπίσκοπος, "overseer, supervisor, ruler, superintendent, guardian." The Church is fully aware of this sense in her divine polity, and trads should be, too: If an ecclesiastical adventurer can never have title to any see, he cannot rightly claim the name belonging to the office. (N.B. In the real Church, a man cannot be consecrated without such title.)
All that Sedelandia offers are some laymen with valid but illicit episcopal orders, which enable them to ordain and confect holy oils. (Any priest can confirm, as you know.) Possessing episcopal orders is in no way a token of a man's fitness to lead or teach. Nor do those impermissibly conferred orders assure the faithful that these episcopi vagantes have the requisite education in theology and canon law from a school approved by the Holy See, since almost any yokel without a degree can get consecration for the asking. (There are more than a handful of "bishops" here and abroad eager to impose hands lightly.) As a result, with the exception of some "bishops" with real credentials who left the Novus Ordo for tradition, it's likely that most, if not a all, would be found unfit for the office if they were members of the Roman Catholic Church.
Now this absence of office has practical implications for the laity's social attitude toward the impostors. Since the sede make-believe "bishops" received their orders without Apostolic mandate, they cannot command our immediate respect and deference, any more than the holder of a Ph.D. from an online diploma mill can expect us to admire a credential purchased, not earned. Such a degree is meaningless, for it provides no warrant of the hard-won knowledge that lies behind a doctorate awarded by a legitimate university.
From all that we've said, it's plain these "bishops" have no right to any of the episcopal insignia of office, except during ceremonies, where the rubrics require them. The prohibition applies in particular to their wearing an episcopal ring and expecting the laity and "clergy" to kiss it. In PL's view, this practice is one of the worst abuses in TradWorld, worse than wearing a train during the liturgy. If the laity would quit fetishizing bling, all that angst about the sedes' manifest unsuitability would vanish: people would simply throw the crud balls out on their backsides without a second thought.
It's time, then, for PL to administer a much needed corrective. Maybe we can't put an end to the continuing abuse of prelatical vesture, but we do stand a chance of cleaning up this small area by persuading you to stop feeding these dirtbags' egos.
John Abel Nainfa wrote in 1909 (Costume of Prelates of the Catholic Church),
The ring, symbolizing the spiritual marriage of a Bishop and his church, has always been considered one of the principal insignia of the episcopal rank* (p. 138) ... the ring [is] the symbol of his close union with his church, as well as the sign of his authority (p. 143) ...To the extent that sede kingpins have no territory and are without jurisdiction, that flashy ring they flaunt symbolizes nothing. It's presence doesn't even rise to the level of deceit because everyone, including the wearer, knows sede "bishops" have no authority: they rule over nothing to which their illicitly imprinted episcopal character is formally united. The situation is actually funny, like a sick-burned grammar-school dork who pins on a plastic sheriff's badge, insisting his classmates and teachers make way as he saunters into the cafeteria, squinting like a pint-sized Clint Eastwood at all the "bad" hombres.
The whole business of the fakers' rings raises another issue. Sede lay folks are infamous for their eagerness to degrade themselves before bejeweled nincompoops: self-abasement, it would seem, affords cult-addicted trads a freakish pleasure, somewhat akin to self-mutilation. (Whatever floats your boat, we guess.) That accounts for the frequent spectacle of laymen and -women bobbing up and down as they smooch an ill-formed impostor's ring. If they think the gesture is a sign of their urbanity, they're in for a big let-down. According to Nainfa (p. 144), you only genuflect when kissing the episcopal ring
if the Bishop is within the limits of his own diocese, as it is an acknowledgement of his jurisdiction as Ordinary. Outside of his own diocese, etiquette requires that he should only permit a low bow due to his character as a Bishop.To put it frankly, to kiss a sede's ring and curtsy is a faux pas of ecclesiastical etiquette. These bums don't have diocese to be out of! It's akin to a prosecutor's calling a shabby tramp arrested on a charge of vagrancy "Your Honor" and then standing up when he shuffles in, handcuffed, before the judge.
We think you get the picture by now, so we needn't ply you with additional citations from other authorities. If you're ever tempted again to bow and scrape, kindly recall the following points:
1. Sede "wandering bishops" may not wear a ring outside liturgical functions because they are united to nothing in the Roman Catholic Church. If you meet a film-flam man wearing one, stare at it while simultaneously shaking your head in smug disapproval.
2. The laity and "clergy" should never reverence the ring on a pretended bishop's hand, for the jewelry he wears represents something he doesn't possess. Should you want to declare your abject servitude to a masquerading scumbag, direct the gesture to a more appropriate location.
3. Insofar as the episcopal character these title-less interlopers possess was acquired outside the Church, there's no obligation to bow. If you do, you're abetting ecclesiastical outlawry.
4. Lastly, there's nothing in it spiritually for you. Seeing that these parasites are not members of the hierarchy, you can't earn the indulgence of 50 days for a devout kiss. All you stand to pick up is a slimy gob of spit left by the rite-trash hilljack with a cold sore who preceded you.Show TradWorld your mom taught you to mind your manners. The next time a sede phony sticks his grubby hand under your nose, stand up straight, and don't pucker up — ever again.
The cult masters never imagined it'd end like this.
* We would contend that sede "wandering bishops" have no rank at all since rank in this sense means "relative position or degree of value in any graded group." Inasmuch as they are not in union with the Church, they don't belong to the Church's hierarchy of jurisdiction. Thus it's impossible to locate them in relation to any legitimate member sharing in episcopal power. (Incidentally, that's also why none may be called a prelate (lit. "one preferred," "one given preference," "one set before," "one set above"), hence PL's coinage prelataster, "a would-be prelate.")
A rabid cult defender might argue sede "bishops" have rank in the hierarchy of order (subdeacon ➤ deacon ➤ priest ➤ bishop). If they do (and that's a big if), we say it's imperfect because they received no title from the Church before their lawless consecration. Ranks, you see, are subordinated for a specific purpose; the divine purpose of a bishop is, as a successor to the Apostles, to rule and govern the Church under Peter. But the sedes do no such thing, not even in do-what-you-want Tradistan. There, the only purpose seems to be to demand money and ordain, without ecclesiastical authorization, very low-wattage ne'er do wells.