Does the Council of Trent Anathemize the Second Vatican Council?

A Response To Apologia Anglicana

John Fisher 2.0
5 min readSep 7, 2021

Christian Wagner, the writer behind, Apologia Anglicana (an online blog) has come forward with what I consider to be a very interesting argument against the harmoniousness of the Council of Trent and the Second Vatican Council.

Christian argues that because the Council of Trent rules,

If anyone saith, that the ordinary minister of holy confirmation is not the bishop alone, but any simple priest soever; let him be anathema [1]

And Vatican II rules,

Therefore, priests validly confer this sacrament, using chrism blessed by a patriarch or a bishop. All Eastern Rite priests, either in conjunction with Baptism or separately from it, can confer this sacrament validly on all the faithful of any rite including the Latin; licitly, however, only if the regulations both of the common and the particular law are observed [2].

That the council of Trent anathematizes the practice of Vatican II. Namely, because Vatican II makes the priest in the eastern rite the ordinary minister of confirmation (which I will argue is a case of making these priests extraordinary ministers), it follows that the Fathers at the council of Trent condemned what the Fathers of Vatican II have done. The issue with this argument is that it ignores the context of Orientalium Ecclesiarum. Establishing priests as ministers of confirmation in the East is of a conditional and not normative nature. That is to say, it is given to the Eastern priests as a special condition by the special powers granted by the Pope.

As Fr. Joseph Pohle observes, the belief that the Pope can admit, in extraordinary cases, the power of the priest to be both the valid and licit minister of confirmation as sentenia certa. And this he cites from Bellarmine, Suarez, and De Lugo, as well as both the Thomists and the Scotists [3]. For proof of this, Pohle cites Dolger’s Das Sabrament der Firmug, which says,

Though St Chrysostom regards confirmation as a “prerogative of the coryphaei (i.e., bishops), he is aware of its administration by ordinary priests. Long before the time of Photius, confirmation by simple priests had been customary in the East, and the Western Church accepted it as valid. The matter came up for debate in the councils of Lyons (1274) and Florence (1439).

At Florence the Oriental practice was vigorously defended by the Bishop of Mytilene. Pope Eugene the IV declared in his famous Decretum pro Armenis: “However, we read that sometimes by a dispensation granted by the Apostolic See for some reasonable and urgent cause, a simple priest administered the sacrament with chrism consecrated by a Bishop.” This declaration did not, it is true, justify the oriental practice; but it showed that the Holy See was aware of its existence, and tolerated it.

Benedict XIV expressly acknowledged its validity — “because of at least a tacit privilege conceded by the Apostolic See,” this rule still governs the practice of the Roman church. confirmation given by schismatics Greek priests is never repeated except in countries or regions which the Holy See has expressed through this privilege, e.g. Bulgaria, Cyprus, Italy Sardinia, Sicily, Corsica, and the Maronite districts about the Lebanon [4]

Since the Vatican II council carries the weight of the Pope’s power, we may conclude that Saint Paul VI gave these simple priests the special powers to act, as has been done and tolerated in the past.

Christian anticipates such an objection and has these points to make.

First, this is a non-sensical objection. If all are extraordinary ministers, then there is nothing extraordinary about it. They have then become the ordinary ministers. To have the blanket right to minister a sacramental act is to be the ordinary minister.

Sed Contra: Given that the Eastern Church makes less than 2% of the entire Church, by allowing their rites to practice in a manner that befits their ancient customs, by no means detracts from the ordinary practice of the entire Church. They are permitted under an extraordinary exception that requires the Pope’s power to be exercised.

Second, This does not take the condemnation of Trent seriously. Trent is condemning the very thing that the Pope is doing here. In the east, all Priests are given the right to be the ordinary ministers of Confirmation. The same thing is done by the Pope at Vatican II; therefore, he too is condemned.

Sed Contra: This too is answered by the above, the practice of the East by permission of the Pope is conditional and not ordinary. It is relegated to a minority of the Church, a minority of which needed the Pope’s permission to reinvigorate their old practices. They are an extraordinary case in the Church.

Third, if it is the entire East as extraordinary ministers, then it is not the eastern practice. The Vatican Council affirms that what they are establishing is the practice of the East.

Sed Contra: Given that (1) the ancient practice of utilizing the simple priest was a custom which was, to use Benedict XVI’s words, “a tacit privilege conceded by the Apostolic See”, and (2) by giving them this privilege again through the Powers of Pope Paul VI granting what I argue is another “tacit privilege conceded by the Apostolic See”, we can conclude that both the modern and ancient permission did involve the priest in the Eastern Church acting as the extraordinary ministers of confirmation.

Edit: For Christian’s response, you can find it here on Twitter. You can find my response to his response there as well.

Edit 2: Jacob Watson has also decided to enter into the discussion over at his blog. He offers the following definitions to distinguish the ‘ordinary’ and ‘extraordinary’ ministers.

The ordinary [minister], who is specially consecrated or [Cn. and] deputised to minister the sacraments from his office.

The extraordinary [minister], who due to necessity or peculiar privilege, ministers the same things.

How do these definitions affect my side of the discussion? Well, the clause concerning peculiar privilege seems to support my position that the Eastern-rite priests are acting as extra-ordinary ministers given a peculiar privilege granted by the Holy See through the Vatican II council, just as Pope Eugene IV recognized in the Council of Florence (and which was acknowledged as precedence in the notes of Orientalium Ecclesiarum) back in his day when the issue came up.

While I am sympathetic to Jacob’s worry about a two-tier relationship whereby,

the attempted solution to make the ordinary minister in the West different from the ordinary Minister in the East (which I have often seen in normally faithful, orthodox Roman Catholic literature) is a plain admission of cultural relativism

The Florentine reading of Orientalium Ecclesiarum avoids this issue by seeing the act of the Vatican II council as one of empowering the Eastern-rite priests to act as extraordinary ministers acting through a peculiar privilege granted by the Pope (as even Pohle acknowledged was possible), rather than one with a two-tier system of ordinary ministers.


[1] The Council of Trent, the Seventh Session, Translation by J Waterworth (London: Dolman, 1848), 53–67, On Confirmation, Canon III, Link

[2] Orientalium Ecclesiarum, Paragraph 14, Link

[3] Fr. Jospeh Pohle, The Sacraments: a Dogmatic Treatise, 1951, Volume II, p. 310

[4] Ibid, 311–312



John Fisher 2.0

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