A Defense of the New Rite of Priestly Ordination.

Refuting William Jenkins

John Fisher 2.0
17 min readJan 1, 2021


In my last piece, I refuted Fr. Anthony Cekada’s attacks against the new episcopal ordinations. There, I provided my defense utilizing a close reading of Lumen Gentium. The approach I took was obvious, unlike sedes and other Rad-Trads, we respect the council enough to consider it, and the reading becomes obvious. I know it won’t convince someone who rejects the Council, but I respect the Holy Ghost enough to guide the Church to avoid a serious error.

In his article Purging the Priesthood in the Conciliar Church, William Jenkins attacks the change made in the new form of ordination. What’s the difference, well, compared to the last one, basically nothing [1].

The difference is negligible. While there is more of a difference in the ICEL English version, this does not raise any issue. As Pope Pius XII brought up, there are three things required

the only form, is the words which determine the application of this matter, which univocally signify the sacramental effects — namely the power of Order and the grace of the Holy Spirit — and which are accepted and used by the Church in that sense [2]

All three of these criteria are met in either of the above translations. The power of the order is either confirmed in “dignity of the priesthood”, the “dignity of the presbyterate”, the “second order in the hierarchy” and “as co-workers with the bishop”. The power of the order is signified, not just in one place, but arguably in two. The grace of the Holy Spirit is signified with “the Spirit of holiness” in all three. The sense in which they are accepted is given in Lumen Gentium

In the revision of the rites of Sacred Ordination, however, in addition to the general principles by which the whole reform of the Liturgy ought to be governed, according to the prescriptions of the Second Vatican Council, attention should be paid especially to that wonderful doctrine on the nature and effects of the Sacrament of Orders which was proclaimed by the same Council in the Constitution on the Church [i.e. Lumen Gentium] [3]

If we read the document, we see that priests are co-workers of the bishop, and offer the sacrifice of the Mass

[priests] exercise their sacred function especially in the Eucharistic worship or the celebration of the Mass by which acting in the person of Christ and proclaiming His Mystery they unite the prayers of the faithful with the sacrifice of their Head and renew and apply in the sacrifice of the Mass…

…On account of this sharing in their priesthood and mission, let priests sincerely look upon the bishop as their father and reverently obey him. And let the bishop regard his priests as his co-workers and as sons and friends just as Christ called His disciples now not servants but friends[4]

The sense has not changed, they offer the sacrifice of the Mass, and they are co-workers with the bishop, and remain in the second rank in the three-fold ministry of the Church. So, with all that in mind, what is the issue? What possible complaint could Rev. Jenkins have?

Latin Issues?

Close examination of the two Latin formulae reveals that the traditional form contains the word “ut”, which the new form deletes. Despite its small size, the Latin word “ut” carries a weight of significance-which significance the Church wished to convey by placing it in the traditional formula of ordination. The word “ut” establishes a relationship between that which precedes it in the sentence and that which follows it in the sentence. When it is used with a verb in the subjunctive mood (the verb “obtineant” is used in the formula in the subjunctive mood), then it shows that what comes before it somehow “causes” or is done “for the sake of” what follows it

For example, the Latin sentence Veniunt ut te videant means “they are coming for the purpose of seeing you” or “for the sake of seeing you,” and shows that their seeing you is the purpose and result of their coming. When one removes the “ut” (as in the new form), then the Latin reads yeniunt; te videant. The English sense is “they are coming; may they see you!” The “ut” in the first example shows purpose. Its omission in the second example replaces the idea of purpose with a mere exhortation…

the traditional form clearly conveys the understanding that the new infusion of the Holy Ghost is the cause of their obtaining the office of second rank in becoming priests, and that their elevation to the office of the second rank is the purpose and the result of this renewal of the Holy Ghost within them. By the deletion of the one word “ut” the new Latin form has destroyed any such causal relationship between the two supernatural events.[5]

This literally amounts to nothing. The office of the priest and the grace of the Holy Spirit is still signified, and arguably so if we completely removed the second half of the form altogether. Just for the sake of comparison, here is the form for the Maronite ordination of a deacon,

Look, O Lord, upon thy servant and send down upon him the grace of the Holy Spirit;…and as thou didst give grace to Stephen, the first whom Thou didst call to this ministry, so grant that Thine aid from heaven may come down also on this servant [6]

The office isn’t even explicitly signified. Rather, it is implied given it is a ministry that was held by St. Stephen the deacon. Also, compare it to the ordination for the bishop,

Perfect Thy grace and Thy gift in us and in this Thy servant and Bishop . . . and grant him, O Lord God, together with this imposition of hands, which today he receives from Thee, the influx of Thy Holy Spirit; and make him worthy to obtain mercy from Thee to perform his priesthood and offer Thee pure sacrifices. . .[7]

Here, there is no “so that”, but it’s understood that both the signification of the grace of the Holy Spirit and the office of the Bishop is still present. Of all the things Pope Pius XII listed, there is no request that the office or power of the order is oriented for a specific purpose. Only that it is signified.

As Michael Davies, himself explained in The Order of Melchisedech, Appendix XI,

How did the ut come into the form? The answer is almost certainly through a copying error by a scribe, which was in its turn copied by other scribes and eventually became codified with the advent of the printed Pontifical…If, for the sake of argument, we lay aside the fact that the doctrine of indefectibility rules out any possibility of the new ordination rite being invalid, could it be maintained that the removal of ut from the traditional form justifies the allegation of a significant change of meaning?

I obtained the judgment of a number theologians and canonists competent to provide an expert opinion on the question, namely Professor J.P.M. van der Ploeg, D.P., Dr. Philip Flanagan, Dr. Francis Clark, Dr. H.J. Jordan, Dr T.C.G. Glover, Father William Lawson, S.J., and also Professor Cristine Mohrmann, one of the world’s greatest authorities on Christian Latin. They all reached the identical conclusion, that the omission of ut did not change the meaning of the Latin form to the slightest extent, and did not cast even the suspicion of doubt upon the validity of the Latin form. Thus even if, per impossibile, a sacramental form approved by the Sovereign Pontiff could be invalid, there would be no case for alleging invalidity in the case of the form for the ordination of a priest in the 1968 Ordinal.[8]

The quibble about an “ut” is nothing to be concerned with, especially since it is doubtful it was in there in the first place, and it has the backing of a consensus of Latinists.

Presbyterate Issues

Note as well the use of the word presbyterate to replace the word priesthood. As Mr. Davies keenly observes: “ .. .it is worth pointing out that the Latin word presbyter, used to denote priest in the Latin text of both the traditional and new ordinals, is translated as ‘presbyter’ in numerous places in the ICEL translation. At no time in any English-speaking country have Catholic priests been referred to as ‘presbyters’. The term ‘presbyter’ is also used in the proposed Anglican-Methodist Ordinal.”

Although these two English words-priest and presbyter-come from the same Latin root, nonetheless, they are not simply equivalent in their English meaning and usage. The Church had always employed the word “priest” in English-speaking countries to convey the Catholic concept of the mediator between God and man who offers in an unbloody manner the Sacrifice of Calvary [9].

Again, here we have the same issue with not understanding the important third element, the words must signify in ways “which are accepted and used by the Church in that sense”. It doesn’t matter how heretics use the word. Even Mormons use the correct form of baptism, but fail to give that form the right signification.

And yes, presbyterate is an acceptable Catholic phrase, even in the English language. My authority on this will be none other than Joseph Pohle, who writes the following in the Old Catholic Encyclopedia

we here confine our attention primarily to the presbyterate, since the term “priest” without qualification is now taken to signify the presbyter. [10]

Both a bishop and a presbyter hold a priesthood, even the Maronite ordinal for a bishop speaks of the bishop holding a priesthood. In fact, in English, the presbyterate is a more exact way of speaking of the priesthood held by the second rank.

Priests; Co-workers to the Bishops?

The next issue is already dealt with by reference to Lumen Gentium. Jenkins writes,

Now, the word “co-worker” is rendered in Latin as cooperator, and the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church does in fact consider priests to be cooperatores with the bishops. The problem with the word cooperator is not what it says, but what it does not say. The expression secundi meriti munus (office of second rank) definitely connotes the idea of subordination, which idea specifies the priest’s place in the Church. The word “co-worker” does not of itself signify subordination, and the phrase “co-workers with the Order of bishops” does not necessarily mean that the Order of priests is intrinsically subordinate to the Order of bishops. One laborer could refer to another laborer as a “co-worker”, although they are both equal in the dignity and performance of their task [11]

As stated above, the bishops and priests are co-workers, not because they are equal in dignity and task, but they share in a friendship as co-holders of the ministry of the priesthood. Jesus offers the same sentiment to his disciples,

I will not now call you servants: for the servant knoweth not what his lord doth. But I have called you friends: because all things whatsoever I have heard of my Father, I have made known to you — John 15:15 (DRA)

What other meanings it could have are irrelevant, so long as it is accepted and used by the Church in that sense. Furthermore, it is not even taken by itself, but in context with the rest of the form, the dignity of the priesthood is being given, not perfected, not completed, but given. Also, they are called co-workers “with” the Order of bishops, not “within” the Order of bishops. If they were equals, then it would just be an episcopal ordination.

Context be Damned

What’s rather funny is that Cekada dismisses context as irrelevant, whereas Jenkins goes on to attack the context in which words like “priesthood” can still be rendered null based on the surrounding context, irrespective of the form.

Now, one might insist that despite the change, the new Latin form is still capable of expressing the essential meaning necessary to confer the priesthood. But even the form given in the later Anglican Ordinal (“Receive the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a priest”) could express the essential meaning of conferring Holy Orders. Yet, it was pronounced invalid by Pope Leo XIII. The question is why.

The answer lies in the fact that the word “priest” lost its significance in the context in which it was used. “Since,” as Father Clark observes, “the meaning of words can be changed by human usage and convention, and the efficacy of sacramental words depends upon their meaning, it may happen that liturgical words which convey the sacramental symbolism in one context, do not do so in another.” Thus, in Apostolicae curae Pope Leo XIII declares that the Anglican form is invalid even with the added words “ … for the office and work of a priest,” since these words became, in the Anglican usage, “mere names, voided of the reality which Christ instituted [12]

Except for the fact that there are prayers in the ordinal which do signify the Sacrifice of the Mass. The “Bishop’s Charge” reads,

In the same way you must carry out your mission of sanctifying the world in Christ. It is your ministry which will make the spiritual sacrifices of the faithful perfect by uniting them to the Eucharistic sacrifice of Christ. That sacrifice will be offered in an unbloody way through your hands. Understand the meaning of what you do; put into practice what you celebrate. When you recall the mystery of the death and resurrection of the Lord try to die to sin and walk in the new life of Christ [13].

Jenkins, following Davies’ critique from the first edition of his book, will lay stress that the Bishop’s Charge is optional, but Davies, later in the introduction to the second edition, provides us a critique even he goes on to accept.

Father Brian Harrison, O.S. wrote to me stating that I have placed too much stress upon the fact that the Bishop’s Charge in the 1968 rite is not mandatory, but only a model homily: “It is perfectly clear that what is being presented as ‘optional’ at this point in the liturgy is not the doctrine expressed in the model homily, but only the choice of words with which the bishop may choose to express this doctrine.” I accept this as a valid criticism, and I have taken it into account in my comments on the Bishop’s Charge in Appendix IX [14]

While a bishop may opt-out of the prayer for the intention of downplaying the priest’s sacrificial role, in order for his intentions to be known, they have to be manifested in such a way where their intention is made obvious and in opposition to what the Church does. To give an idea of what that would require, here is an example from Simon Francis Gaine OP,

on the question of the marriage of a Jew who accepts the reality of dissolution, he quotes Innocent III, and on the marriage of Calvinists Benedict XIV, both upholding the validity of such marriages despite erroneous belief concerning indissolubility. Gasparri concludes: ‘[A]ccording to the doctrine and the practice of the Church, even when heresy contradicts the essence of the sacrament it does not necessarily exclude the intention of doing what the Church does.’ He explains that intention is an act of will and that the correct intention can exist quite happily in the soul of the heretical minister who for example may give no thought to his heresies while administering the sacrament. Even if he thinks erroneously about his heresy at the time (for example, while baptising, thinking that baptism has no interior effect), this belief can happily co-exist with the intention to do what the Church does, this intention being in no way affected or undermined by the heresy [15]

It is simply not enough to conjecture why a bishop chooses to leave in or out an optional prayer, his private opinions are still private even if erroneous.

Was the Ordinal Ruined with Protestant Assistance?

Jenkins claims that given the assistance provided by the protestants consultants to Archbishop Bugnini, we see parallels to Apostolicae Curae where a point of evidence was brought against Thomas Cranmer, who received help from continental reformers [16]. I’ll grant the historical facts given by Davies and Jenkins for the sake of argument, but even then we have two overriding factors.

The first is that whatever sense they would have understood the ordinal, the spiritual head of the Church was Pope Paul VI, and the sense which he provided is what matters, not the composers. While an Anglican could make the same case about their ordinal, Cranmer and company composed their ordinal before any particular sense could be attributed to the ordinal by Parliament (which is important to note since the Anglican Church is a creature of government). Their sense is the only possible one we have in rendering a judgment on Matthew Parker.

The sense of the ordinal (especially in 1669) would be read through the lens of the Anglican formularies (the homilies, prayerbook, and the 39-articles), all of which deny explicitly the sacrificial sense of the priesthood.

The second issue is that unlike the Anglican Church, the Catholic Church is protected when she enacts and recognizes an ordination rite since she cannot bind someone to do something immoral and that extends to ordinal rites. This is covered under secondary infallibility. Catholics have an obligation to attend Mass, and therefore a right to know if their priest has proper orders. If the Church cannot recognize such a Mass, it makes no sense to recognize such an obligation.

This is the explanation traditionalist Michael Davies gives in his work concerning Pope Leo’s decree on the invalidity of Anglican orders. By defending Apostolicae Curae, he uses the same reasoning; and this reasoning can be reapplied to the validity and legality of the Mass.

The most frequently cited argument used by those wishing to question the binding authority of the Bull is that it is not infallible. An infallible pronouncement, in the strict sense of the word, pertains only to what is contained in the deposit of Divine revelation, which is known as the primary object of infallibility. It is evident that Our Lord gave us no revelation as to the validity or invalidity of Anglican Orders. But there is a secondary object of infallibility which involves truths connected with revelation, including historical facts. It is an infallibly revealed truth that Our Lord instituted a sacrificing priesthood, but it is absolutely essential for the faithful to know who is or who is not a priest.

When a convert priest celebrates Mass his congregation has the right to know that his Mass is valid. Thus, when the Church pronounces upon the validity of the ordinations of any Christian communion, we can know with infallible certainty that its decision is true. Convert priests from Orthodoxy are accepted without reordination, but, because the Church accepts the validity of their orders, we need have no scruples about assisting at their Masses. Decisions relating to this secondary area of infallibility are what is known as dogmatic facts, and Apostolicae Curae comes into this category. There is no possibility that Pope Leo XIII was mistaken, and there is no possibility that his decision will ever be reversed. The verdict of the Bull is not simply final but infallible [17]

In the same way, I have a right to know if my priests are valid, and therefore the rite of ordination itself must be valid if it was approved. Jenkin’s objection would not just apply to a particular translation, but the Latin itself. It proves too much and can be disregarded.

Jenkin’s Refutations

Jenkins responds to the above objection concerning what the Holy Spirit would permit by saying,

the Holy Ghost permitted Vatican II to occur and to wreak havoc in the Church. So it seems hard to predict exactly what the Holy Ghost will or will not permit. Besides, if the Holy Ghost Himself guarantees the validity of the new Ordinal, did He permit Leo XIII to err in deciding a parallel case, and thus to delude millions of Anglican laity and clergy-and the whole Catholic world as well? [18]

Infallibility extends to the Vatican II documents themselves, not how we take and understand them. In fact, by denying Vatican II, Jenkins would be rejecting universal ordinary magisterial teaching. Furthermore, Leo XIII’s judgment concerned an ordinal which was unauthorized by the Church, whose sense could only be read by their formulators’ own theology, whereas Pope Paul VI himself gave the sense in which these words are to be understood.

The next argument concerns whether or not the ordinal is accepted by the whole church,

Regarding the second argument, Mr. Davies himself makes the excellent point that the text of the new ordination ritual has not been made generally available to the Catholic faithful. He remarks, “ .. .it is hard to see how it can be claimed that a rite has been accepted by the entire Church when it is deliberately witheld from 99.9 percent of the faithful. “ One might add the further comment that “acceptance” is a positive act, and that, far from having positively accepted the new rites”. One might add the further comment that “acceptance” is a positive act, and that, far from having positively accepted the new rites, many of the Catholic faithful seem to be bewildered by them and in a state of confusion, following along for want of any other obvious alternative. This certainly does not constitute an acceptance of the new rituals, but rather a hesitation over them-a suspension of judgment which is properly called a “doubt.”

Although these two arguments fail, perhaps some will claim that papal authority makes the otherwise defective form to be valid, as though such authority could impose extrinsic validity. This idea seems to contradict the whole complex of Catholic sacramental theology. While it is true that a defective intention can invalidate a form sufficient in itself, nevertheless, neither a sufficient intention nor any external authority can make valid a form and a rite which is of itself defective. Can that same authority guarantee the validity of a rite when that authority was applied to purge from the sacramental ritual all that clearly signified the nature of the sacrament? Evidently not.[19]

The Catholic Church is not a democracy, it is a monarchy where the Pope acts and has the power to act on behalf of the Church. His consent is all that matters as supreme pastor of the Church. Furthermore, Jenkin’s refutation involves shifting the goalposts, originally he claimed that the validity of the ordination rite was doubtful, now he is treating it as if it was defective. While the Pope could not make a defective rite a valid one, in cases of a doubt his judgment can be used to set them to the side and provide relief. Especially if he is providing the exact sense of the priesthood.


There is no reason to doubt the validity of priestly ordination. Jenkins goes further than Davies does, and by ignoring the cautions that Davies provides, he ends up with an argument with refutations already largely provided in his source material. I will echo what Cardinal Vaughn says concerning the power of Pope Leo XIII to determine what constitutes a valid rite, and fairly attribute it to Pope Paul V

And if no one can give a final judgment as to what is and what is not valid administration of a sacrament, as to what is and what is not the Christian Priesthood and Sacrifice, in what a condition of inextricable chaos has Christ left His Church? [20]

There is no contradiction, Pope Leo XIII is ruling about an ordinal provided outside the Church, without the approval of the Catholic hierarchy, whose sense is given not just by the ordinal itself, but by various formularies which outright deny the priesthood’s sacrificial nature. Pope Paul VI gives us an ordinal under his authority as Pope, in the context of the 2nd Vatican Council. If he can’t trust the judgment of the Pope, then who can we trust?


[1]William Jenkins, Purging the Priesthood in the Conciliar Church, 8–9

[2] Pope Pius XII, Sacramentum Ordinis On the Sacrament of Order, 1947, paragraph 4.

[3] Pope Paul VI, New Rite for the Sacred Ordination, 1968

[4] Dogmatic Constitution on The Church Lumen Gentium Solemnly Promulgated By His Holiness Pope Paul VI On November 21, 1964, Lumen Chapter 2, Paragraph 28

[5] William Jenkins, Purging the Priesthood in the Conciliar Church, 9

[6] H.A. Vaughan et el, A Vindication of the Bull ‘Apostolicae Curae’, 48


[8] Michael Davies, The Order of Melchisedech, Appendix XI, 137, Link

[9] William Jenkins, Purging the Priesthood in the Conciliar Church, 10

[10] Pohle, Joseph. “Priesthood.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Link

[11] William Jenkins, Purging the Priesthood in the Conciliar Church, 10

[12] ibid

[13]Michael Davies, The Order of Melchisedech, Appendix XI, 57, Link

[14] ibid, 9, Link

[15]Simon Francis Gaine, Page 15, Defect of Sacramental Intention: The Background of Apostolicae Curae.

[16] William Jenkins, Purging the Priesthood in the Conciliar Church, 12

[17]Michael Davies, The Order of Melchisedech, Appendix XI, 57, Link

[18] William Jenkins, Purging the Priesthood in the Conciliar Church, 13

[19] ibid, 13–14

[20] H.A. Vaughan et el, A Vindication of the Bull ‘Apostolicae Curae’, 5



John Fisher 2.0

Catholic blogger, my views are not necessarily reflective of the Church’s. Please post corrections to help me avoid heresy.