For decades, the Society has fallaciously appealed to the historical
case of St. Eusebius of the fourth century, to justify the illicit episcopal consecrations
of Marcel Lefebvre in 1988. During the Arian crisis, when certain churches in
the East were overthrown and the hierarchy had been nearly eradicated, St.
Eusebius, a bishop with a canonical mission and ordinary jurisdiction in the
Church, consecrated bishops and installed pastors throughout the devasted areas.
He did so even though he was outside his diocese, had no particular
jurisdiction over the territories in question, and had no mandate from the
Pope. How was St. Eusebius able to validly and licitly confer orders outside
As we will see, the nature of the authority St. Eusebius
exercised to restore these churches was his supreme and universal
jurisdiction (also called the “collegiate” power), which he possessed as a
member of the College of Bishops with a canonical mission (the same authority
the Apostles and their successors used to establish particular churches in the
very beginning of the Church). Further, the conditions that made St.
Eusebius’ exercise of this authority licit were the near annihilation of the
hierarchy in these overthrown areas, along with his lack of recourse to the
Roman Pontiff. (For more on the theological basis for the collegiate power, see
our articles on Collegiality.)
In its attempt to use the case of St. Eusebius to justify
Lefebvre’s consecrations, the Society errs both in its understanding of the
type of the authority St. Eusebius exercised, and the circumstances which
justified it. The SSPX errs by claiming that St. Eusebius licitly consecrated
bishops outside his diocese by virtue of “supplied jurisdiction,” due to a
generalized state of necessity. The Society’s error is rooted in its rejection
of the Catholic Church’s teaching on the episcopacy, namely, that members of
the College of Bishops, in union with the Pope, share in the supreme authority
and universal jurisdiction (a doctrine that was formulated in the debates at
Vatican I, taught in the pre-Vatican II theology manuals, and further advanced
by Vatican II in Lumen Gentium).
Of course, even if the Society accepted the Church’s teaching on
the episcopacy (which it clearly does not), they could not appeal to the collegiate power it to justify Lefebvre's illicit episcopal consecrations, not only because he was almost certainly deprived of it when he was suspended, but because the consecrations were performed against the expressed will of the Pope.
In support of its novel position that St. Eusebius used “supplied
jurisdiction,” the Society repeatedly references Dom Adrien Gréa’s outstanding
book on the episcopacy, De l'Église et de sa divine constitution. The Society refers to Gréa’s book both in its extensive essay “The 1988
Consecrations: A Theological Study,” as well as its longstanding piece “Neither
Schismatic Nor Excommunicated,” originally published in the Courrier de Rome,
1988. This article will prove that the Society of St. Pius X completely misrepresents
Gréa’s book and his very clear explanation of: (1)
the nature of the authority St. Eusebius exercised, as well as (2) the conditions
that justified the exercise of said authority. When one reads Gréa, it is simply not possible to come
to the conclusions the Society reaches, namely, that St. Eusebius relied upon
“supplied jurisdiction” to consecrate bishops, and due to generalized state of
“spiritual necessity.” As we will see, notwithstanding the Society’s fabricated
narrative, Gréa teaches no such thing.
In fact, before Gréa explains the type of episcopal authority St.
Eusebius exercised (which, again, was his universal jurisdiction as a
member of the College of Bishops, and not “supplied jurisdiction”), he warns
his readers that “extraordinary actions” that bishops have taken from time to
time to restore churches that have been rendered impotent by persecution, have
been abused by heretics to exaggerate the power of the episcopacy, which
is exactly what the SSPX has done in its apologia for Lefebvre. Says Grea: “These facts have been abused to pull out of
proportion the authority of the bishops and to give them a sort of primitive
and independent sovereignty. It is thus necessary to overthrow this fundamental
Indeed, let us now overthrow the fundamental error of the Society of St. Pius X regarding the case of St. Eusebius, and its abusive application to the illicit consecrations of Marcel Lefebvre.
The Society Misrepresents Dom Gréa’s Book by Inserting “Law of Supply”
In the history of the
Church there are any number of cases of bishops who, in extraordinary
circumstances, when they found themselves in some of the same difficulties
as these of the early centuries and, consequently, where the necessity
arose of using their episcopal powers in all their fullness, consecrated
bishops without adhering to the disciplinary norms of the time. They
did so by virtue of this "law of supply [et]"
which exists in the Church, as it does in all organizations, when the
functioning of necessary and indispensable organs becomes endangered. Thus in
the 4th century, St. Eusebius of Samosata travelled throughout the
Eastern Churches laid waste by the Arians and consecrated and
installed Catholic bishops .
have seen misleading scholarship before, especially from Sedevacantists, and
this commentary by the Society of St. Pius X certainly falls into that category
(and that is putting it charitably). The Society advances its own completely
novel theory, which claims that St. Eusebius consecrated bishops in areas
overrun by heretics, without papal approval, by virtue of what it coins “the
law of supply” (which means “supplied jurisdiction”).
Society does so by presenting its theory in a tidy paragraph, and then, to give
it the appearance of authority, provides an endnote to Gréa’s book at the end of the paragraph (“84” is the
Society’s reference to “Theod., .,1, IV, c.12; Dom A. Grea, n,1, II, chap.
XI: ,” found in the endnotes of
the Society’s article). The Society references Gréa
to give the reader the impression that the Society’s
position comes from Gréa, who was supposedly explaining that St.
Eusebius used supplied jurisdiction to consecrate bishops during the
Arian crisis. That is obviously the Society’s reason for referencing Gréa.
In addition, as
one can see, the Society puts in quotation marks the phrase “law of
supply” in the middle of the paragraph in question. This is also done to convince
the reader that Gréa actually used that phrase (“law of supply”) in his book
and his treatment of St. Eusebius (which he did not). And since the phrase “law
of supply” is not the way supplied jurisdiction is described in modern theology
manuals (the phrase is a novelty of words which the Society made up), the
phrase gives the impression that it is an archaic term, that fittingly
describes the authority St. Eusebius used so many centuries ago, accordingly to
the terminology used at that time.
To further bolster
that impression, the Society provides an (incorrect) accompanying Latin
translation for the “law of supply,” that is, “Ecclesia supplet,” as if
to say “today we call it The Church supplies.” All this is done to convince the reader that Gréa was
recounting St. Eusebius’ obvious use of supplied jurisdiction to consecrate
bishops in a time of necessity. The Society’s point is that if the “law of
supply” (which, again, it places in quotations) applied to St. Eusebius, then
it can equally apply to Archbishop Lefebvre as well.
The dishonesty of the Society’s
approach is immediately ascertained simply by reading the relevant chapter of Gréa’s
book, from which the
Society pretends to quote (Chapter IV, “The Extraordinary Action of the
Episcopate” / De L’Action Extraordinaire De L’Episcopat). The purpose of
this chapter (and Gréa’s book, as a whole) has
absolutely nothing to do with “supplied jurisdiction.” Rather, it is to explain
the universal jurisdiction that the members of the College of Bishops
possess, how this is the most fundamental power of the episcopate, how it
precedes and was used to establish (“give birth to”) particular churches
and jurisdiction in the very beginning of the Church, and, as in the case of
St. Eusebius, to also restore (“give new birth to”) churches that
had been lawfully erected and then nearly destroyed by heretics.
book has absolutely zero to do with “supplied jurisdiction”; Gréa never says St. Eusebius consecrated bishops or
installed pastors using the “law of supply.” This is a complete fabrication
of the Society of St Pius X. But remember, because the Society rejects the
doctrine that members of the College of Bishops share in the supreme authority
and universal jurisdiction, it is forced to come up with another type of
jurisdiction for Lefebvre, to justify his consecrations. The Society certainly
got creative, by craftily calling it “the law of supply” and analogizing it to
the obscure and ancient case of St. Eusebius. Perhaps the Society didn’t think
anyone would double check its references, especially a book written in
repeats this same falsehood about St. Eusebius and supplied jurisdiction in its
so-called theological study of Lefebvre’s 1988 consecrations, in its chapter on
none other than “Supplied Jurisdiction,” and once again appeals to Gréa. In addition, the Society generalizes (fabricates) the
requisite conditions under which bishops can consecrate “clandestine” bishops (the
Society’s words) without papal approval, even though Gréa was describing what he calls “the rarest case
of the extraordinary intervention of the episcopate,”
that is, when the local hierarchy was “overthrown by persecution,” which
“annihilates completely and suppresses the action of their pastors.” In the Society’s own words:
Now, it is evident from
history that the Church has manifested, at least tacitly, her will to supply
jurisdiction through the consecration of other bishops in case of grave
general or public spiritual necessity. Recent history records
that "clandestine" bishops were consecrated without Pontifical
approval in order to provide for the grave general necessity of souls.
Longer ago, during the Arian crisis, St. Eusebius of Samosata and other
bishops, not only consecrated but even established other bishops in episcopal
sees, and the Church has not hesitated to proclaim his sanctity.
Again, the Society not only fallaciously appeals to “supplied jurisdiction” in its treatment of St. Eusebius (never addressed by Gréa, but whom the Society uses as its “authority”), but it also misrepresents the conditions under which the jurisdiction was exercised. With Lefebvre’s case always in mind, we see the Society claiming that consecrating bishops “without Pontifical approval” is justified when there is “grave general or public spiritual necessity” and the “grave general necessity of souls.” Is that what Gréa says? Once again, no, not at all.
The Society Omits the Conditions Required for the Exercise of the Supreme Power
if the defection of particular Churches calls for the immediate action of the
universal Church and can give an opening to this extraordinary action of the
episcopate, it is manifestly on two occasions: Primarily,
when the particular Churches are not yet founded, and it is properly the
apostolate; Secondarily, when the particular Churches are as overthrown
by persecution, heresy or some grave obstacle which annihilates completely and
suppresses the action of their pastors; and it is the rarest case of the
extraordinary intervention of the episcopate coming to their aid.
After further explaining how the Apostles and their successors exercised the “jurisdiction of the universal Church” (“la juridiction de l’Eglise universelle”) in the founding of Particular churches, Gréa goes on to explain how the same authority was exercised to restore churches overthrown by heretics, using St. Eusebius as an example:
as we have already said, one conceives, that in the absence of particular
pastors, that which is universal in the powers of the hierarchy
remains alone, and that the universal Church, by the general powers of
her hierarchy and of the episcopate, holds, so to speak, the place of the
particular Churches, and comes immediately to the aid of souls. We see this in the fourth century, when Saint
Eusebius of Samosata traveled the churches of the East, which had been
devastated by the Arians, and ordained orthodox pastors for them, without
having particular jurisdiction over them. Those are truly extraordinary
actions, like the circumstances which have given occasion for them. These
manifestations of the universal power of the episcopate (“pouvoir
l’episcopat”) also, exercising itself in places
where the local hierarchies have been established and have not entirely
perished, have always been very rare.
The Society Deliberately Omits “Universal
from Gréa’s Quotation
After referring to Gréa’s explanation of the exercise of episcopal
authority in the beginning of Christianity (to found churches), the Society again
creates its own narrative, by extending the episcopal authority (by virtue of
“supplied jurisdiction”), based on a generalized “necessity of the Christian
people” and the “common good of the Church,” before eventually quoting the
fragment on St. Eusebius (which it indents):
Grea, whose attachment to the pope is above all
suspicion testifies (De l’Eglise et de sa divine consitution, vol. I)
that not only at the beginning of Christianity did the "necessity
of the Church and the Gospel" demand that the power of the episcopal
order be exercised in all its fullness without jurisdictional limitations, but
that in successive ages extraordinary circumstances required "even more
exceptional and more extraordinary manifestations" of episcopal power
(ibid., p.218) in order "to apply a remedy to the current
necessity of the Christian people" (ibid. and ff.),
for whom there was no hope of aid on the part of the legitimate pastors nor
from the pope. In such circumstances, in which the common good of the Church
is also at stake, the jurisdictional limitations vanish and "that which
is universal" in episcopal power "comes directly to the aid of
souls" (ibid., p.218):
in the 4th century St. Eusebius of Samosata is seen passing through the
Oriental Church devastated by the Arians and ordaining Catholic Bishops for
them without having any special jurisdiction over them. (op. cit. p.218)
It is not possible that the
Society “missed” Gréa’s references to the “universal power of the episcopate”
(with no references to “supplied jurisdiction”), since this terminology flanks Gréa’s
sentence on St. Eusebius on page 218, and the Society references this exact
page number (“p. 218”) three times! As we saw, this page contains both Gréa’s remark about St. Eusebius, and also his explicit
references to the “universal power of the episcopate” (not “supplied
jurisdiction”). Indeed, the Society read Gréa carefully, especially page 218, but
then carefully provided only a tidbit of Gréa’s quotation (just enough to mislead
the reader, while hiding the material which contradicts its narrative).
The Society further fails to
provide Gréa’s subsequent explanation (on pages 218-219) of the conditions
required for the “more extraordinary manifestations” of the universal power,
namely, to cases where the “local hierarchies” had “nearly perished” and were
“rendered powerless,” and “one could not hope for any possible recourse to the
Holy See” (p. 219). Instead, the Society chalks up St. Eusebius’s exercise of
authority to a generalized “necessity of the Christian people” and “common good
of the Church,” all with the purpose of convincing its readers to conclude that
Lefebvre (a retired bishop with no mission or jurisdiction in the Church) must
have acted with the same authority, and under similar conditions, as St.
Again, this is a blatant misrepresentation of Gréa’s book, which Gréa himself would call a “fundamental error,” by “pulling out of proportion the authority of the bishops,” all to support the Society’s absurd theory that bishops can publicly defy the will of the Pope and consecrate bishops using supplied jurisdiction (even though the Pope is the source of all jurisdiction in the Church!), and on the nebulous ground, never mentioned by Gréa, of “general spiritual necessity” and the “common good of the Church” (as if rejecting the lawful commands of the Pope serve the spiritual necessities of the faithful and the common good of the Church).
The Society is Caught Omitting “Habitual” Power
Further evidence that the Society deliberately omitted material which contradicts its narrative and proves Gréa was not referring to “supplied jurisdiction” comes from the same page 219, which follows Gréa’s reference to St. Eusebius (on page 218). Here, Gréa distinguishes the “universal power” of jurisdiction from supplied jurisdiction by properly describing the universal power as “habitual”:
First, this universal power of the episcopate (“pouvoir universel de l’episcopat”) although habitual in its substance (“qu’habituel dans son fond”) is extraordinary in its exercise upon a particular Churches, and its use is not permitted as long as the order of these [particular] Churches has not been destroyed. Second, for the exercise of the power to be legitimate, it is necessary that recourse to the Sovereign Pontiff is impossible… 
Notwithstanding the Society’s efforts to characterize St. Eusebius’ jurisdiction as “supplied,” Gréa affirms that the substance of the “universal power of the episcopate” that St. Eusebius exercised was habitual, unlike supplied jurisdiction, which is not a habitual power. Gréa’s additional explanation further calls into question the integrity of the Society’s narrative, making it appear intentionally deceptive, since the SSPX knows, and has publicly stated, that supplied jurisdiction is not habitual.
For example, in his “canonical study” on the Society’s confessions and marriages, SSPX priest Fr. Ramon Angles affirms that supplied jurisdiction is not habitual:
This suppliance [supplied jurisdiction] is to be conceived as a delegation by the law, . The active subject of this extraordinary delegation is the common law, in the sense that is disposed in the legislation. The power is given not habitually but in actu: the agent does not possess the power before he uses it, nor does he retain it afterwards: he possesses it by delegation of the law ONLY AS LONG AS IT IS NECESSARY FOR THE VALID EXERCISE OF THE ACT. 
Such Extraordinary Action No
About these necessary conditions, Gréa goes on to say: “But, outside of these conditions,
and as long as the legitimate hierarchy of the particular Churches is standing,
there would manifestly be abuse and usurpation in the act of a bishop carrying
the sickle into the harvest of his brother, and overthrowing the borders of
local jurisdictions placed by the Fathers.” In fact, says Gréa,
these conditions of necessity no longer exist in the Church today:
“The Church, in effect, by the grace of God, is henceforth sufficiently well
established in the world, and the relations which unite the members to the head
are assured so that there is no more occasion for this extraordinary action of
Hence, as we have seen, the Society not only fabricates a groundless case for supplied jurisdiction as it relates to St. Eusebius, which it pretends is based on Gréa (but which is expressly rejected by Gréa), but also omits all references to the universal and supreme jurisdiction of the College of Bishops, the near extinction of the local hierarchies which allowed for its licit use, the prohibition of using said authority when the Particular churches and hierarchies are still functional (and there is recourse to the Holy See), and the absence of the requisite conditions that would justify the licit use of said authority today. The Society of St. Pius X has completely misrepresented the scholarship of Dom Adrien Gréa and the case of St. Eusebius.
In Summary: St. Eusebius vs. Lefebvre
Eusebius was a member of the College of Bishops in good standing, and he was acting with the tacit approval of the Pope; Lefebvre was not a member of the college in good standing with the Church, and he act against the expressed will of the Pope, who had formally warned him that performing the illicit act would result in latae sententia excommunication.
Eusebius possessed the supreme authority and universal jurisdiction as a member
of the College; Lefebvre was almost certainly deprived when he was suspended.
Eusebius also had ordinary jurisdiction in the Church; Lefebvre did not.
Eusebius was a bishop in good standing with the Church; Lefebvre was not (he
was under canonical censure).
Eusebius was in communion with the Roman Pontiff; Lefebvre was not.
Eusebius consecrated bishops in areas where the hierarchy had been “destroyed”;
Lefebvre consecrated bishops “where the hierarchy of the Church was standing,”
thereby “carrying the sickle into the harvest of his brother bishops” and
“usurping” their authority.
Eusebius had experienced the “rarest case” of necessity; Lefebvre “had no more
occasion for this extraordinary action of the episcopate,” given that the
Church is now “sufficiently well established in the world.”
Eusebius had no recourse to the Roman Pontiff; Lefebvre not only had recourse,
but refused the Pontiff’s positive will and external command regarding the
consecration of his bishops.
· St. Eusebius died a saint and martyr; Lefebvre died outside the Church, in schism, and under declared excommunication.
We hope that the Society of St. Pius
X has the humility to retract its longstanding misrepresentations of Dom Gréa’s
outstanding work on the episcopacy. A proper understanding of both the nature of
the episcopal authority, and the conditions under which said authority may be
lawfully exercised, will allow the Society to realize there are no parallels
between the licit actions of St. Eusebius, and the illicit actions of Marcel
Lefebvre, which resulted in his disgraceful excommunication from the Church.
This understanding will also
hopefully lead the SSPX to reject Lefebvre’s errors and finally embrace the
traditional teaching of the Roman Catholic Church on the supreme authority of
the episcopal College. Hopefully, such a change in the Society’s position, along
with its acceptance of the Church’s Profession of Faith and renunciation of its
other theological errors, will pave the way for the Society and its clergy to
become part of the Roman Catholic Church and be granted a canonical mission.
John Salza’s “Exposing the SSPX’s Error on Collegiality,” and Robert Siscoe’s “Collegiality
in Light of Tradition,” at www.trueorfalsepope.com.
 De l'Église et de sa divine
constitution, Paris : Maison de la Bonne Presse, 1907.
Ibid., p. 209.
supplet means “the Church supplies,” not “the law of supply.”
 De l'Église et de sa divine
constitution, p. 216.
Ibid, pp. 218-219.
1988 Consecrations: A Theological Study, Part 4.
Ibid, p. 219.
Angles, “Validity of SSPX’s Confessions and Marriages,” 1.5, “What is Supplied
Ibid, p. 220.