I knew getting sick and not being able to immediately comment on this issue was a mistake, for it seems the Orthodox have beaten me to it and responded exactly as I expected they would.


For the uninitiated, the Chaldean Christians in Iraq have suffered horrifically ever since the U.S. invasion in 2003 and with ISIS it exacerbated to levels unseen since the Ottoman genocide in World War I.  Thousands have fled their homes and some priests have abandoned their flocks.  To provide the faithful with pastors, the Patriarch has ordered some priests in the thriving communities outside Iraq and Syria (most notably in El Cajon, California where the Church boasts both a cathedral and a smaller church) to return to the land of their birth.  The problem is that some of these clerics left as far back as the original Gulf War (the one with daddy Bush, not Dubya) and have since assimilated into their new homelands and see themselves as belonging there.  They have refused to comply with the Patriach and have stayed put even under the threat of excommunication.

Frankie (or the cabal of greasy bureaucrats in monsignori dress, depending on who you believe runs the Vatican) has intervened and told the priests they need not obey a command from their direct Patriach.  This sign of bad faith has been largely and rightly ignored by the Chaldean Patriach who has reiterated his threat of excommunication to the dissident clerics.

Aside from the disastrous message this sends to the Orthodox Christians, this an example of a Pope taking on authority he simply doesn’t have.  Does the Ukrainian Catholic Patriarch have authority to interfere in the internal affairs of the Romanian Catholic Church?  What if the Chaldean Patriarch wished to do the same to the Malankara Church?  The Armenian Patriarch to the Ruthenian Church?  The Coptic Patriarch to the Ethiopian Church?  (alright, that last one would have some historical justification)

If Rome wished to intervene they should have done so A) By consulting the Patriarch and B) with an alternative solution to the problem.  How many Roman priests with biritual Chaldean faculties are there (that’s an honest question, because I really don’t know)?  How many priests in the Western Church – to be blunt – do absolutely no parish work (“There is a man who you should see, he writes a blog and his name is Z…”)?  If Rome wants to intervene let them help these brother Catholics: either find some priests to help or make some!  As is, this act is proof that papal absolutism is far from dead and thrives most when it pretends not to exist.

I started this pontificate with no ill feelings or preconceptions of the pope.  One friend was instantly against him on account of having gone to a Jesuit high school (I, however, only recently discovered the ear-rape that is the collection of songs by the St. Louis Jesuits), others were shocked when he threw away his “papal dignity” by washing the feet of a Muslim woman (I shrugged and reminded them that Christ washed the feet of all the apostles, even Judas), and more still were scandalized by the “who am I to judge” quote (I almost immediately learned of the real comment in context and decided to stop paying attention to the “National Enquirer”-esque gossip around the man).  I have become convinced that he is simply there to be a distraction for the masses, a scapegoat for the Trads, a smokescreen for the Kasper cabal, and something for the Neocons to blindly defend like the fools they are (only the more reasonable Conservatives seem to be recalibrating themselves in any fashion approaching sanity).

The worst despotism is always the one behind a liberal facade and pleasant smile.  Just ask Pio Nono.

“Even his cats are liberals,” – Gregory XVI

“I am the Tradition!  I am the Church!” – Pio Nono


18 thoughts on “Jurisdiction

  1. “…this an example of a Pope taking on authority he simply doesn’t have”

    I agree with you, but aren’t we now anathematized by the decrees of Vatican I? “If anyone says…that this power of his is not ordinary and immediate both over all and each of the Churches and over all and each of the pastors and faithful: let him be anathema.”

    We can say all we want about synodality and “most prudent” ways to utilize his absolute power (posse), but where do we draw the line at dissent from Vatican I?


    • Could you provide the session and canon number of that? I tend to find the entire quotes in Ecumenical Councils provide useful context (to the chagrin of the Ultramontanists and Feeneyites).

      When I read Vatican I, I tend to find that it’s documents are written to limit the ultramontanist tendencies of the time. In fact, the council can be seen as the “Waterloo” where that sect nearly triumphed and was defeated thanks to efforts of the Holy Cardinal Newman and the Melkite Catholic Patriarch.


      • After all, it’s not like there are items from councils that should be ignored or that are ignored (by Catholics and Orthodox alike)

        Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 16
        But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind.

        Quinisext Council, Canon 101
        The great and divine Apostle Paul with loud voice calls man created in the image of God, the body and temple of Christ. Excelling, therefore, every sensible creature, he who by the saving Passion has attained to the celestial dignity, eating and drinking Christ, is fitted in all respects for eternal life, sanctifying his soul and body by the participation of divine grace. Wherefore, if any one wishes to be a participator of the immaculate Body in the time of the Synaxis, and to offer himself for the communion, let him draw near, arranging his hands in the form of a cross, and so let him receive the communion of grace. But such as, instead of their hands, make vessels of gold or other materials for the reception of the divine gift, and by these receive the immaculate communion, we by no means allow to come, as preferring inanimate and inferior matter to the image of God. But if any one shall be found imparting the immaculate Communion to those who bring vessels of this kind, let him be cut off as well as the one who brings them.


  2. Vatican I, Session Four, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Ch. 4, no. 9, canon [DS 3064, Dz 1831]: “Si quis itaque dixerit, Romanum Pontificem habere tantummodo officium inspectionis vel directionis, non autem plenam et supremam potestatem iurisdictionis in universam Ecclesiam, non solum in rebus, quae ad fidem et mores, sed etiam in iis, quae ad disciplinam et regimen Ecclesiae per totum orbem diffusae pertinent; aut eum habere tantum potiores partes, non vero totam plenitudinem huius supremae potestatis; aut hanc eius potestatem non esse ordinariam et immediatam sive in omnes ac singulas ecclesias sive in omnes et singulos pastores et fideles: anathema sit.”


    • There’s the addendum from The Council of Florence “except the rights and priveleges of the Eastern Patriarchs”.

      Simply put, the Vatican presuming to override an order from the Chaldean Patriach in his own church is violation of an Eastern Patriarch’s rights and privileges. Thus, it is violation of both Vatican and Florence.

      Anathema sit, indeed.


      • The Eastern “rights and privileges” refers to the taxis of the patriarchs. But the Vatican I definition precludes such rights and privileges, since the Roman bishop claims that his ordinary and immediate power extends “in omnes ac singulas ecclesias” irrespective of it being oriental or occidental, and eviscerates the meaning of the ancient patriarchal taxis.


      • That is simply incorrect. The guarantee to the Eastern Patriarchs would not have been made at Florence if it meant so little or could be arbitrarily thrown away as such. Furthermore, due to the intervention of Gregory Youseff, the phrase was added to Vatican I to prevent encroachment against Patriarchal authority. It effectively thwarted Pio’s attempt to seize unlimited universal jurisdiction just as the documents on infallibility thwarted his attempts to declare himself infallible in all things (ultramontanists like Cardinal Wiseman were defeated and very annoyed at Newman for his championing of Church tradition).

        Pio would not have had Gregory thrown to the ground and stood on his head if “except the rights and privileges of the Eastern Patriarchs” being added meant what you have interpreted.


  3. The Quinisext Council is really a source of spectacular nonsense when understood in context. If Vatican I was attempted Ultramontanism, that synod in Trullo was Ultra-Hellenism, a codification of all things Greek which helped (among many factors) to set the stage for the inevitable rift between east and west:

    Canon 52: On all days of the holy fast of Lent, except on the Sabbath, the Lord’s day and the holy day of the Annunciation, the Liturgy of the Presanctified is to be said.

    Canon 55: Since we understand that in the city of the Romans, in the holy fast of Lent they fast on the Saturdays, contrary to the ecclesiastical observance which is traditional, it seemed good to the holy synod that also in the Church of the Romans the canon shall immovably stands fast which says: If any cleric shall be found to fast on a Sunday or Saturday (except on one occasion only) he is to be deposed; and if he is a layman he shall be cut off.

    Canon 56: We have likewise learned that in the regions of Armenia and in other places certain people eat eggs and cheese on the Sabbaths and Lord’s days of the holy lent. It seems good therefore that the whole Church of God which is in all the world should follow one rule and keep the fast perfectly, and as they abstain from everything which is killed, so also should they from eggs and cheese, which are the fruit and produce of those animals from which we abstain. But if any shall not observe this law, if they be clerics, let them be deposed; but if laymen, let them be cut off.

    Outside [what’s left] of the Byzantine Empire, there is no salvation….


  4. I would also agree with the blog’s host, that to assign a maximalist interpretation of Pastor Aeternus is to miss the point of the intervention by Gregory II. Pius IX did not get what he wanted in the original meaning of the language, necessitating a weaker understanding more in line with history. The Church does not and cannot bind in belief contrary to reality. The Church is inerrant in teaching guided by the Holy Spirit, but that does not preclude a great role by the hands of men. To disregard this and cling to a saccharine view of the Church endangers one’s faith, which can then rest in some fleeting golden era in which we can be sure (the Counter-Reformation Church, the medieval Church, the Church of the “first seven ecumenical councils” and, favorite of the liberals, the “early Church”). I firmly believe that the good Lord normally governs the Church by preventing men from doing ill rather than by proactively forcing good. That is the result of the grace.


  5. davidstandeven,

    The “rights and privileges” was not added to the text of Vatican I; rather, the Melkite patriarch added that to the copy he himself signed after he attempted to flee Rome during the final vote. Also, the story about Pius IX stepping on the head of the patriarch is entirely apocryphal.

    Moreover, for clarity, here is the text from Florence: “We also define that the holy apostolic see and the Roman pontiff holds the primacy over the whole world and the Roman pontiff is the successor of blessed Peter prince of the apostles, and that he is the true vicar of Christ, the head of the whole church and the father and teacher of all Christians, and to him was committed in blessed Peter the full power of tending, ruling and governing the whole church, as is contained also in the acts of ecumenical councils and in the sacred canons. Also, renewing the order of the other patriarchs which has been handed down in the canons, the patriarch of Constantinople should be second after the most holy Roman pontiff, third should be the patriarch of Alexandria, fourth the patriarch of Antioch, and fifth the patriarch of Jerusalem, without prejudice to all their privileges and rights.”

    Yes, of course Vatican I put common sense limits on the magisterial power of the Pope of Rome, but it didn’t put any limits on his jurisdictional authority. If anything, it says that he can do whatever he damn well pleases. One would do well to read the nota explicativa praevia of Lumen gentium and the relevant sections of the 1990 Eastern Code of Canon Law. Some samples:

    Canon 45 – §1. The Roman Pontiff, by virtue of his office (munus), not only has power over the entire Church but also possesses a primacy of ordinary power over all the eparchies and groupings of them by which the proper, ordinary and immediate power which bishops possess in the eparchy entrusted to their care is both strengthened and safeguarded.
    §2. The Roman Pontiff, in fulfilling the office (munus) of the supreme pastor of the Church is always united in communion with the other bishops and with the entire Church; however, he has the right, according to the needs of the Church, to determine the manner, either personal or collegial, of exercising this function.
    §3. There is neither appeal nor recourse against a sentence or decree of the Roman Pontiff.

    Canon 46 – §2. The participation of patriarchs and other hierarchs who preside over Churches sui iuris in the synod of bishops is regulated by special norms established by the Roman Pontiff.

    Canon 56 – A patriarch is a bishop who enjoys power over all bishops including metropolitans and other Christian faithful of the Church over which he presides according to the norm of law approved by the supreme authority of the Church.

    Canon 58 – Patriarchs of Eastern Churches precede all bishops of any degree everywhere in the world, with due regard for special norms of precedence established by the Roman Pontiff.


    • The idea that the pope is the uncontested supreme authority of the church goes against all established tradition and ecclesiology. The Chaldean patriarch has done the right thing in ignoring the Vatican “decision” and asserting his authority against the paper demands of a few cardinals and monsignori who falsely claim to represent the pope.

      I’d recommend – if you haven’t done so already – that you read the chapter in ‘The Banished Heart’ titled ‘From Tradition to Obedience’.


      • I think you misunderstand me. I completely agree with you. I’m just asking how one can maintain the plain words of Vatican I, the CCC, the Eastern and Latin codes of canon law…which do violate ecclesiastical tradition…and still say that the pope hasn’t the authority to do what he did. Where does one draw the line at being a Catholic?

        And yes, I’ve read Hull’s book.


      • I don’t see the point in fretting over the Codices of Law or the Catechism when the traditional understanding of the papacy is what won out at Vatican I, even if the spirit of the Council was something else. Cardinal Hergonrother’s in the document Pasce Agnos words help:

        “The Pope is circumscribed by the necessity of making a righteous and beneficent use of the duties attached to his privileges. He is also circumscribed by the respect due to the General Councils and to ancient statutes and customs, by the rights of bishops, by his relation with civil powers, by the traditional mild tone of government indicated by the aim of the institution of the papacy itself: ‘to feed’.”

        In short, the Pope is bound by traditional customs, privileges, rights, practices, and by reality—just as any bishop is. I would also add, keeping my Byzantine affiliations in mind, that there are conciliar definitions of the pope, bishops, priests, Sacraments etc. There are none of patriarchs. Patriarchs are fathers of customs and traditions, but still human constructs. Rome once, and some day must again, balance that wise human construct with a more tame exercise of her own teaching.

        Ignoring what the council and the good cardinal said plays into both the hands of both the Ultramontanists and the various groups that have left the Church, or the faith entirely, over the years: that it is either the absolutist papacy or nothing. Rather than make one’s small contribution to fixing the abuse, one rejects the thing entirely….


  6. But I still can’t see how Vatican I’s full, immediate, ordinary power over every single Church and person isn’t already violating what you are calling the traditional ecclesiology. Again, the council tempered the pope’s magisterium but resolidified his supreme jurisdictional authority. How then can one claim to be a good Catholic and still reject Vatican I’s definition of the pope’s supreme jurisdictional power? Are we just talking past each other?


    • I would say that we must do about that Vatican I canon the same thing we do about the Trullan canons: to ignore it. Church history is the best witness of the lack of legitimacy of papolatry (not of a rightly understood petrine primacy, which is historically well attested), but at the same thing the best witness of the fallibility of many councils.

      And I disagree with His Traddiness: I do believe Ultramontanism had a partial success at Vatican I. Though papal infallibility was restricted, universal and immediate jurisdiction open the door to the feeling that the Pope could anything he wanted. Personally, I must say that, in my heart, I cannot believe in universal papal jurisdiction. Makes me that a heretic?

      K. e.


      • I agree with his Traddiness, naturally.

        I don’t see the issue with “ordinary” jurisdiction, as “ordinary” means the Ordinary of a diocese (ruling bishop), something well attested in previous times (heck, check the Fortescue book I reviewed last year—certainly no Ultramontanist). What Pastor Aeternus troublesomely omits, and the clarifying document only seems to mention implicitly, is that the pope’s ordinary jurisdiction should not be *normal*. Nicholas I deposed the imposter Photios from Constantinople, Leo the Great sent a book-length letter to an Ecumenical Council, early era popes passed judgments over Eastern churches on matters of the validity of Baptism and who to admit to Communion. Yet in all these cases his intervention was requested, implying that those who asked for his aid believed he held both A) held power over the Church beyond Rome and B) his exercise of that power was not the norm. There was a balance that has been lost, in no small part because of the Chalcedonian schism and then the loss of the Greek Church, leaving Rome as the only major patriarchate and the eastern churches in Communion with Rome as oddities unable to assert countervailing measures.

        Pastor Aeternus is somehow not wrong, but not right, much like saying three times three is a number between eight and ten rather than forthrightly admitting it is nine.


  7. I don’t remember that review – I will check it, for sure!

    What I wonder is whether those measures taken by Popes outside Rome, and requested by other bishops or patriarchs, and which certainly witness the Primacy and Power bestowed to Peter by Our Lord, are really the same thing we have later called “universal jurisdition”, which do not seem to be regarded as “exceptional”. Maybe it is just a problem of praxis: the maximalist intervention of Popes since the Avignon papacy, and especially from Mastai-Ferreti onwards. It is the latter, as far as it is widely understood, that I cannot accept.

    I would addsomething to your point on the “lost balance”. The politico-jurisditional disputes between the Pope and some European Kings (mainly those of Spain and France, and the German “emperor”) on the rights of these over their national churches. Maybe this has led to a wrong-focused view, too: that if you were not a regalist, you must be an ultramontane. A thirth, balanced, and truly traditional position was not even regarded as possible.

    K. e.


    • Also, you have discussed the role of patriarchs, since they are not of divine institution – as the Papacy is. Indeed, I think the archbishop of Constantinople should have never been appointed to the patriarchal rank (even the most important after the Pope!). But what about metropolitans/archbishops? I write this because my own diocese was once an “exempt diocese” – this means a diocese leaded by a bishop who is not suffraganean of any archbishop. This was a result of some historical factors, and lasted till our friend Mastai-Ferreti, in accordance with the Spanish government, suppressed that exempion and made my diocese suffraganean of another one. Was the former state of things legitime from a traditional point of view, in your opinion?

      Thank you!


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