Time goes by so quickly. St John the Baptist’s Day is approaching, and I will be afloat somewhere on the River Aulne. Some recent discussions brought my ordination to mind, which is found on my blog at:
I made no secret of the fact that I was ordained a priest on the 24th June 1998 by Bishop Raymond Terrasson, an independent bishop consecrated in the Ngô-Dinh-Thuc succession. He was consecrated in 1976 by the self-exalted guru Clemente Dominguez y Gomez of the flamboyant Spanish cult at Palmar de Troya. The sect in question might be despicable and heretical, but there remains the fact that they received the episcopate from a Roman Catholic archbishop who apparently was not joking or in some state of mental malaise when he did it. Donatism is still a current heresy among some faithful of the Roman Catholic Church. Bishop Terrasson no longer belonged to the cult when he ordained me, having left when the guru proclaimed himself “pope”.
One solution is to deny the indelible character of the sacrament of order (defined by the Council of Trent) and you do away with uncanonical clergy at a stroke, but you saw off the branch of your own clericalism! Alternatively, there is the “Cyprianic” view that ties validity to the – wait for it – “true church”. The problem is which “true church”. The Augustinian view allows some “economia”, but has to make a distinction between “valid” and “licit”. It is a jungle of speculation, which only adds to the ridicule of spiritually bankrupt institutional churches. Can one blame the Protestants of the sixteenth century?
For the sake of prudence, I received conditional re-ordination to the priesthood from Bishop Damien Mead in 2013. The faithful of our Church have the right to be morally certain of the sacramental validity of all our priests.
The place where my ordination took place is symbolic, a chapel built near the village of Coussac-Bonneval near Limoges in 1946 in thanksgiving for the village having spared Nazi atrocities in 1944 like the massacre of nearby Oradour-sur-Glâne. It is a simple stone and concrete building, dedicated to Our Lady of Biaugias. It stands as a memorial to the men and women who resisted the Nazis in France, and who often gave their lives very painfully in the hands of the Gestapo.
Two Roman Catholic parish priests were present and participated in the ordination: Fr Jacques Pecha (1920-2002) of the parish of Bouloire (Diocese of Le Mans) and Fr Noël Tibur (1918-2010) of the parish of Clermont (Diocese of Dax). Another priest was present, previously ordained by Bishop Terrasson. Fr Pecha, a priest who had a tremendous influence in my life, had the role of Archdeacon and Assistant Priest.
The ordination was uncanonical in the eyes of anyone’s Church, I readily admit it. However, there was nothing grubby or shameful about it, the doors of the chapel being left open throughout the ceremony. Experience brought me in time to a much more sober view of independent bishops and the shenanigans of some. Sometimes, it is hard to find the fine line between a legitimate Church – as I believe the continuing Anglicans to be – and flagrant irregularity. In the end, we need to see what it is all about, as I have alluded to in my previous article on the vocation.
* * *
Some make allusion to an episcopate I received in 2000. Since I have not exercised it in any way since 2004 (I ordained a priest who since then became Orthodox – and would have been re-ordained), it is of no relevance in my life as a simple priest.