The Case of St. Eusebius: Did the SSPX Intentionally Deceive?


John F. Salza, Esq.
February A.D. 2022

                 

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 his diocese?

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.[1])

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), Lefebvre did not possess the supreme authority and universal jurisdiction in the Church. This is because, at the time of his illicit consecrations, Lefebvre was not a member of the episcopal College and had no jurisdiction in the Church (in fact, he was under canonical censure). Hence, Lefebvre was not capable of exercising a power he did not have.

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.[2] 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 error.”[3]

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 its article “Neither Schismatic Nor Excommunicated,” the SSPX makes a case for why there is a crisis in the Church and how a Pope should be disobeyed if he deviates from the Faith. In particular, the Society claims that bishops can operate outside the normal channel of papal approval, in consecrating bishops in times of crisis. After claiming that there have been cases in Church history of bishops consecrating new bishops “without adhering to the disciplinary norms of the time,” the Society authors a brief narrative on the case of St. Eusebius in the section it calls “The election of bishops.”  Pay close attention to the type of jurisdiction the Society claims St. Eusebius exercised, along with its general reference to “difficulties” and “necessity” to justify such consecrations, and the endnote reference: 

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 [Ecclesia supplet]" 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 [84].[4]

Now, I 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”).

The 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., Hist.eccl.,1, IV, c.12; Dom A. Grea, L'Eglise et sa divine constitution,1, II, chap. XI: Action du college episcopal,” 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.”[5] 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.

            Again, Gréa’s 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 French. 

              The Society 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.”[6] 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.[7]

              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

               Gréa not only makes it clear that the authority exercised by St. Eusebius was the “universal power of the episcopate” (“pouvoir universel de l’episcopat”) and not supplied jurisdiction, but also that this authority is licitly manifested in two narrow cases: where Particular churches were either not yet founded, or were founded but overthrown by heretics (and most certainly not due to a “general necessity” or “public spiritual necessity” of souls). Writes Gréa:

 

But 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.[8]

 

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: 

For, 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 universel de l’episcopat”) also, exercising itself in places where the local hierarchies have been established and have not entirely perished, have always been very rare.[9] 

         To repeat, Gréa never says St. Eusebius consecrated bishops or installed pastors by “the law of supply.” There is absolutely no reference to “supplied jurisdiction” in this section or any other section of Gréa’s book, nor to a generalized state of “spiritual necessity” that would trigger jurisdiction for purposes of consecrating bishops. Rather, Gréa explicitly refers to the “universal power of the episcopate,” which is the supreme authority of the members of the College of Bishops with canonical mission in the Church, and which they used to either found Particular churches or restore churches that were lawfully erected, but that had been overthrown by persecution (“the two occasions,” in Gréa’s words, that would trigger the extraordinary use of the universal power). 

The Society Deliberately Omits “Universal Power”
from Gréa’s Quotation

             Compare the above quotation on St. Eusebius taken from Gréa’s book, with a fragment of the same quotation that the Society presents in its “The 1988 Consecrations: A Theological Study,” provided below. In its study, the Society quotes only a small portion of paragraph referring to St. Eusebius from page 218, presented above. In doing so, the Society intentionally omits the sections of the paragraph which explicitly refer to the “universal power” (“pouvoir universel”) of the episcopacy, which both immediately precede and immediately follow the sentence referring to St. Eusebius, which we clearly see above.

         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):

Dom 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):

Thus 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)[10]

             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. Eusebius.

             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… [11]

               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, delegatio a iure. 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. [12] 

              Conditions for Such Extraordinary Action No Longer Exist

       Gréa also again explains that St. Eusebius’ extraordinary use of the supreme power could only be exercised in this case because: (1) there were no bishops in these territories (the use of the power is not permitted if the order of the particular Churches had not been destroyed); and, (2) recourse to the Pope was impossible.

            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.”[13] 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 the episcopate.”[14]

         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

 While more could be said, we conclude our analysis by briefly summarizing the many black and white distinctions between the cases of St. Eusebius and Marcel Lefebvre at the time of their consecration of bishops, which underscores how ridiculous the comparison is: 

·         St. Eusebius was a member of the College of Bishops; Lefebvre was not.

·         St. Eusebius possessed the supreme authority and universal jurisdiction as a member of the College; Lefebvre did not.

·         St. Eusebius also had ordinary jurisdiction in the Church; Lefebvre did not.

·         St. Eusebius was a bishop in good standing with the Church; Lefebvre was not (he was under canonical censure).

·         St. Eusebius was in communion with the Roman Pontiff; Lefebvre was not.

·         St. 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.

·         St. 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.”

·         St. 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.

 

 



[1] See John Salza’s “Exposing the SSPX’s Error on Collegiality,” and Robert Siscoe’s “Collegiality in Light of Tradition,” at www.trueorfalsepope.com.

[2] De l'Église et de sa divine constitution, Paris : Maison de la Bonne Presse, 1907.

[3] Ibid., p. 209.

[4] www.sspx.org, “Neither Schismatic Nor Excommunicated” (emphasis added).

[5] Ecclesia supplet means “the Church supplies,” not “the law of supply.”

[6] De l'Église et de sa divine constitution, p. 216.

[7] www.sspx.org, “The 1988 Consecrations: A Theological Study,” Pt 4 on Supplied Jurisdiction (emphases added).

[9] Ibid, pp. 218-219.

[10] The 1988 Consecrations: A Theological Study, Part 4.

[11] Ibid, p. 219.

[12] Fr. Angles, “Validity of SSPX’s Confessions and Marriages,” 1.5, “What is Supplied Jurisdiction?,” www.sspx.org.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid, p. 220.


1 comment:

DePicchi said...

I'm playing a bit of a devil's advocate here, but according to the Directory for the Pastoral Ministry Of Bishops "Apostolorum Successores", Chapter IX (https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cbishops/documents/rc_con_cbishops_doc_20040222_apostolorum-successores_en.html#Chapter_IX): “The Bishop Emeritus continues to be a member of the episcopal College “by virtue of sacramental consecration and hierarchical communion with the head and members of the college”(Code of Canon Law, c. 336). Therefore, he has the right to assist the Roman Pontiff and to collaborate with him for the good of the whole Church. Furthermore, he has the right to take part in an Ecumenical Council, exercising a deliberative vote (Cf. Code of Canon Law, c. 339), and to exercise his collegial power within the terms of the law (Cf. Code of Canon Law, c. 337 § 2)”.
Of course, you might say that Lefebvre was not a member of the College of Bishops because of the canonical censures he suffered. But one could imagine, for the sake of argument, that a future authority would determine that the sanctions Lefebvre had incurred were unjust and invalid. And that he therefore retained his place within the College of Bishops in the same way that an unjustly excommunicated Athanasius did.
Moreover, the paragraph “Conditions for Such Extraordinary Action No Longer Exist” proof, at best, that in Gréa's time the conditions for the extraordinary exercise of collegiate power no longer existed. But I do not think it can be concluded that such conditions may never arise again in the future.
Besides, however questionable it may be in other respects, it does not seem to me that Lefebvre's action was in the sense of usurping the jurisdiction of a “brother” bishop, as it would have been if he had explicitly tried to consecrate, say, the bishop of Freiburg.