Last week I had the opportunity to have a discussion with a 4th year FSSP seminarian.
It was an interesting discussion and after resolving some of the 'SSPX needs to come back into the Church' verbiage, we arrived at what I believe to be the heart of the matter: Is it a mortal sin (objectively) to consecrate a bishop without papal mandate?
Unfortunately, the event was winding down when we arrived at this important point.
Why is it important?
Because I believe it is the foundation of the assumptions that stand between the SSPX and the FSSP.
It is not a question of whether or not Archbishop Lefebvre and Bishop Castro de Mayer subjectively incurred the penalties foreseen in the law.
It is a question of whether or not they were right to perform the consecrations at all.
So, is it a mortal sin to consecrate a Bishop without a Papal Mandate?
Just a quick flash back: A Papal Mandate is a formal authorization to consecrate a priest as bishop.
First the canon in question:
Can. 1382 A bishop who consecrates some one a bishop without a pontifical mandate and the person who receives the consecration from him incur a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.
Next the qualifier:
Can. 1323 The following are not subject to a penalty when they have violated a law or precept:So, the action of consecration is, obviously, not intrinsically evil. In and of itself it is not a mortal sin to consecration a priest as bishop. Otherwise we'd be in a whole world of hurt.
4/ a person who acted coerced by grave fear, even if only relatively grave, or due to necessity or grave inconvenience unless the act is intrinsically evil or tends to the harm of souls; Source: Vatican Code of Canon Law
In other words, if a person is in a state of necessity and they consecrate a bishop, then they don't incur the penalty and ... did not sin.
Now, objectively, is there a state of necessity in the Church?
Here's what was read in place of the Papal Mandate:
First, are the statements factual (ie aligned with reality)?“Mandatum”At the beginning of the rite of the consecration the following dialogue takes place between the consecrating bishops and the Archpriest who presents the bishops-elect for consecration:
–Do you have the Apostolic Mandate?
–We have it!
–Let it be read.
We have this Mandate from the Roman Church, always faithful to the Holy Tradition, which She has received from the Holy Apostles. This Holy Tradition is the Deposit of Faith which the Church orders us to faithfully transmit to all men for the salvation of their souls.
Since the Second Vatican Council until this day, the authorities of the Roman Church are animated by the spirit of modernism. They have acted contrary to the Holy Tradition, “they cannot bear sound doctrine, they turned their ears from the Truth and followed fables” as says St. Paul in his second Epistle to Timothy (4:3-5). This is why we reckon of no value all the penalties and all the censures inflicted by these authorities.
As for me, “I am offered up in sacrifice and the moment for my departure is arrived” (II Tim 4:6). I had the call of souls who ask for the Bread of Life, Who is Christ, to be broken for them. “I have pity upon the crowd” (Mk. 8:2). It is for me therefore a grave obligation to transmit the grace of my episcopacy to these dear priests here present, in order that in turn they may confer the grace of the priesthood on other numerous and holy clerics, instructed in the Holy Traditions of the Catholic Church
It is by this Mandate of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, semper fidelis (always faithful), then that we elect to the rank of Bishop in the Holy Roman Church the priests here present as auxiliaries of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X:
Fr. Bernard Tissier de Mallerais
Fr. Richard Williamson
Fr. Alfonso de Galarreta
Fr. Bernard Fellay
At that time (1988) with the fever of Assisi, and the other issues that abound - I think it is reasonable to conclude that an objective state of necessity existed at that time.
Further, the knowledge of this was confirmed by the interactions with Rome . . .
Pope Benedict also acknowledged a state of necessity to Bishop Fellay.
I don't think it's got any better since then eh?