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A Bit Rich, Vicar! Fr. Hunwicke vs. Pius XII

Fr. John Hunwicke

On his Mutual Enrichment blog in early January 2019, ex-Anglican-turned-Novus Ordo High Church apologist Fr. John Hunwicke posted three short articles that attempted to refute my lengthy study of the 1968 Rite of Episcopal Consecration, “Absolutely Null and Utterly Void,” which, among other things, demonstrated that the essential sacramental form in the new rite did not univocally express the conferral of the episcopal order, and was therefore invalid.

Fr. Hunwicke, it seems, had posted the first two articles on the topic more than a year ago, and in the second, written in his coy and ever-so-precious style, dropped hints about the existence of some supposedly damning “evidence,” which he then failed to deliver.

Now comes Fr. Hunwicke with a third article and the supposed evidence, claiming that the form Pius XII himself specified in 1947 did not univocally express the conferral of the episcopal order.

Yes, you read that right.

As his proofs, Fr. Hunwicke offers (1) an opinion from Cardinal Gasparri (+1938) in his treatise on Holy Orders, and (2) a “medieval manuscript” that reads “mysterii” where the Pius XII form reads “ministerii.”

In response:

1. GASPARRI. Until 1947, theologians proposed a wide array of opinions as to what constituted the essential form in the rites for conferring the priesthood and the episcopacy, and Gasparri’s was just one among many.

That is why Pius XII settled the question in Sacramentum Ordinis — so one can hardly cite Gasparri’s opinion on the form for episcopal consecration against Pius XII, since Pius XII himself rejected it.

Uh, that’s why Catholics have popes, Vicar Hunwicke — to settle matters. Romish theology, you know. We don’t get to second-guess them with twee remarks over sherry after Choral Evensong.

2. MYSTERII. Does a variant reading “mysterii” instead of “ministerii” in a medieval manuscript somehow disprove the univocal nature of the traditional form?

(a) Once again, Pius XII settled the question: he said the form must be univocal and then told us exactly what it was. If you’re a Catholic, you don’t get a do-over, no matter how long you peek out at us over your glasses.

(b) The first page of any pre-Vatican II sacramental theology treatise will give the etymology of the word sacrament, and tell you that the Greek term for sacrament is mysterion.

So sorry, Vicar, no equivocation there, either — the term you’ve fixed on means sacrament.

Thus his fundamental errors. But for a more lengthy treatment of some of the issues, see Novus Ordo Watch’s three-part series They Are Really Not Bishops.

In the meantime, though, we could start a fundraiser to buy the Vicar some proper bifocals. Maybe then he can try to educate himself about sacramental forms and Catholic ecclesiology…