Omne actum ab agentis intentione judicandum ("every act must be judged by the doer's intention"). Latin Legal Adage
It's been a while since we ran a seasonal "mailbag" feature. Lately there's been a lot to cover in Cultilandia, making it impossible to share with our readership the content of our voluminous and, let us say, sometimes spirited correspondence. PL's post of March 24 generated so much e-mail that the team decided to replace the article slated for today with the following communication about the Liénart liability:
Thuc's opinion about Archbishop Lefebvre's validity and a $ will get you a cup of coffee, nothing else. Father Cekada beautifully disproved the defective intention "canard" with a single perfect quotation:
“all [theologians, Ed.] agreed that the outward decorous performance of the rites [our edition reads rite, Ed.] sets up a presumption that the right intention exists.... The minister of a sacrament is presumed to intend what the rite means... This principle is affirmed as certain theological doctrine, taught by the Church, to deny which would be at least theologically rash.” (B. Leeming, Principles of Sacramental Theology [Westminster MD: Newman 1956], 476, 482.)Maybe if you knuckleheads would read a real theologian like Father Cekada and stopped calling him nasty names you would not spew forth all of your evil garbage.
For the record, we do read "real," i.e., properly formed, authentically Catholic, theological authors, like Bernard Leeming, S.J. We also read, for laughs, the amateur and suspect scribblings of that sub-educated, wannabe, outsider Erroneous Antonius. In fact, Fr. Leeming's volume (the 1957 second impression with minor corrections) sits on the ready-reference shelf in our editorial offices, alongside Parente, Roberti, "baby" Prümmer, Pohle-Preuss, Bouscaren, Attwater, etc. Furthermore, our correspondent's cite from the Cheeseball's fatuous "Sacramental Intention and Masonic Bishops" has been on our radar for quite some time.
Insofar as Checkie's quotation surfaced (coincidentally?) in several responses about the Liénart liability, today affords an opportune occasion to demonstrate once again why no Catholic should ever trust anything Tony Baloney says or writes. In all honesty, that citation is one of the most egregiously misleading — we're being charitable here — proof-texts we've ever encountered from the Checkmeister's unreliable pen, almost equal to his perverse mistranslation of infallible papal teaching. We're sure you'll agree by the time we're through. It won't take long.
If you read the quote as it stands in Phony Tony's monograph, you'd think the principle affirmed as "certain theological doctrine" runs something like this: whenever a competent minister performs a rite correctly, he establishes a presumption that he does so with the proper intention. Now there's nothing wrong with that as it stands: students of Roman law will clearly recognize the ancient maxim acta exteriora indicant interiora secreta. However, it is NOT in its entirety the principle Fr. Leeming said would be rash to deny. Here's Leeming's principle as stated verbatim on p. 482 of our edition of Principles of Sacramental Theology:
THE MINISTER OF A SACRAMENT IS PRESUMED TO INTEND WHAT THE RITE MEANS: NEVERTHELESS, IF IN FACT HE RESOLVES NOT TO DO WHAT THE CHURCH DOES, HE HAS NOT SUFFICIENT INTENTION AND THE SACRAMENT IS INVALID.That principle is much more complex than the Cheeseburger's, wouldn't you say? Observe (1) the colon, which here emphasizes the sequence of thought, and (2) the transitional adverb nevertheless, so termed because it effects a logical transition (in this instance, between sentences). Furthermore, grammarians classify that conjunctive adverb as an adversative, because it not only connects the sentences but also contrasts them. Note also there are not two principles: It's one principle consisting of two interconnected elements. The first element is limited by the second.
Consequently, sure, it's true that a minister is presumed to intend what the rite means, BUT, as the second half of Principle XV tells us, the presumption may be overthrown under a specific condition. You aren't free to accept only the first part of the principle and reject the second without censure. In a similar vein, you can't declare that half the principle constitutes the whole principle.
Did the Cheeseball only give part of the story because the other part threatened to upset his self-serving objective? A motive for suppressing the whole principle might become apparent when you read Leeming's summary (pp. 483-484, emphases ours):
Thus, the mind of the Church is clear that it is possible for a minister to have the intention of not doing what the Church does, and that if such is the case, the sacrament is invalid. This teaching is universally accepted by modern theologians, who agree that a sacrament is invalidated even by a secret intention of the minister contrary to the substantial nature of the sacrament. *As we have argued before (12/23/17), it is not inconceivable that a well-motivated, thoroughly radicalized infiltrator could pronounce the words and conduct the rite of priestly ordination impeccably, yet interiorly have no intention to do what the Church does. Indeed, an indoctrinated, highly intelligent, supremely self-disciplined enemy of the Church who understood what was at stake might almost reflexively commit himself to the unrelenting effort of subverting the sacraments at every turn, especially the sacrament of orders. What better way to destroy the Church than to corrupt holy orders through the passive aggression of a secret resolve?
If Liénart were a Freemason, he assuredly was aware of the far-reaching damage one rogue bishop could inflict upon the Church; working with brother Masons in the Church, the effectiveness of his destructive efforts would be amplified. The Church had trained him well. In addition to his seminary formation, he studied at the Institut Catholique de Paris, the Sorbonne, and the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. He therefore knew where to strike in order to wreak the most havoc with the least risk of exposing himself.
Now, whether he was a Mason, PL can't say for certain, but as far back as 1978 an SSPX priest, writing in defense of Lefebvre's orders, seemed to acknowledge Liénart's Freemasonry as a matter of fact.** Likewise, whether Liénart resolved at Lefebvre's ordination not to do as the Church does, we don't know with certitude either, for in Rama Coomaraswamy's words, "we cannot look back into his heart in 1929."***
PL's point, however, is that if Liénart were an inveterate enemy of the Church, as Archbishop Thục believed him to be and as many others have affirmed, then it is possible, perhaps even plausible, considering the psychological profile of the fanatical true-believer, that Liénart's intention at Lefebvre's 1929 sacerdotal ordination may well have been contrary to the substantial nature of the sacrament of orders. The horrific result would be Lefebvre's invalid ordination to the priesthood.
In his comedy Curculio, Plautus wrote, "flamma fumo est proxuma," which freely translated runs, "Where there's smoke, there's fire!" Lefebvrist "clergy" cannot cavalierly dismiss the Liénart liability without risk of self-immolation. Too much has surfaced, and the days of easy denial are over. Although we may never know Liénart's intention on Lefebvre's ordination day, barring, say, the discovery of a personal journal, we can (1) apply what we know in general about the mindset of the Church's most formidable adversaries, (2) remind ourselves of Leeming's entire Principle XV, and (3) choose the safer side. It's not too late. For some.
The Readers' advice to Big Don — and to the Checkmeister — is:
* For anyone who is interested in learning the facts about the rather involved and convoluted history of the presumption of intention, we recommend studying Leeming's chapter 15, pp. 462-496. This way you may bypass the untrustworthy cult masters completely.
** The article is found here. The writer may have been referring to the "outing" of Masonic prelates in a 1976 article published in the journal Il Borghese, which set off a series of investigations into moles who had penetrated the Church at high levels.
*** The quote came from a 1982 article, Cracks in the Masonry, where Coomaraswamy concluded, "There is no credible evidence which shows that Cardinal Liénart was a Freemason (p. 8)." He seems to have changed his mind dramatically before his death, for in his revised and updated 2006 book, The Destruction of the Christian Tradition —click here, see p. 246 if you want to verify — we read, emphasis ours:
The Freemasons have long dreamed of infiltrating, and indeed, of taking over the Church. It was Cardinal Leinart [sic], another Freemason, who in 1950 petitioned Pius XII for permission to celebrate the Easter Vigil at night rather than in the morning—and this for “pastoral reasons.”