In recent decades, the Catholic Church has come under heavy attacks on many sides of the spectrum. On one side we have Anti Catholic sediment rising in Fundamentalist Protestants and non Christians alike. However, the strongest attacks have come from radical traditionalists who are in schism with Rome especially the Sedevacantists. They believe that the last pope was Pius XII and that all his successors have been anti popes. They also claim that Vatican II was heretical and that the New Mass is invalid. One of their reasons for saying the New Mass is invalid is that the new rite of ordination is invalid and also illicit. They say that the new rite is invalid for the same reason the Anglican rite is invalid and that the new rite is illicit because of what the Council of Trent said. Lets take a look at these claims.
Canon 13 of the Council of Trent reads,”If anyone says that the received and approved rites of the Catholic Church, accustomed to be used in the administration of the sacraments, may be despised or omitted by the ministers without sin and at their pleasure, or may be changed by any pastor of the churches to other new ones, let him be anathema.” Sedevacantists will read this saying that the rites of the sacraments are unchangeable. There is a serious problem with that interpretation of the Council of Trent. That problem is that the sacraments themselves are doctrines thus unchangeable, but the rites in which they are done are disciplinary and in matters of discipline, equals cannot bind equals. For example, the Church said at Lateran IV that no more religious orders were to be formed. However, at Lyon II, the Church established the Dominican and Franciscan Orders and then in the 16th Century the Jesuit order was formed. Other examples include Clement XIV suppressing the Jesuits in 1773 but then the order being restored by Pius VII in 1814 and Saint Pius V’s new Roman Breviary being changed by Saint Pius X even though Pius V didn’t want it changed. The examples I listed above are disciplinary thus the Church can licitly change them and so are the rites of the sacraments thus Paul VI changes to the new rite of ordination were licit.
The question remains though if the new rite is valid. Sedevacantists will often point to the Anglican rite of ordination and how it is rather similar to the new rite. They do this because in the late 19th Century, Leo XIII declared Anglican ordination to be invalid. However, for any sacrament to be validly conferred, the proper matter and form must be observed. Since Jesus did not mandate a specific formula to be used for the consecration of bishops, the Church assumes authority over this. If you look at Leo XIII reasoning he said it had negative intent. That is because when the Anglicans changed their ordination, they stopped viewing the mass as a sacrifice thus the proper intent was lost. That is the real reason why the Anglican ordination is invalid.
So you can see, though the Sedevacantist claims against the new rite of ordination may seem strong, they don’t hold ground under further scrutiny. We will answer more of their claims in later posts.