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Vatican: Chinese Catholics should not receive sacraments from bishops involved in consecration

Catholic World News - July 14, 2011

The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples is urging Catholics in China not to receive sacraments administered by Father Paul Lei Shiyin, who was illicitly consecrated Bishop of Leshan without a pontifical mandate, and by the seven bishops who consecrated him.

“By the very act of receiving episcopal ordination without the pontifical mandate, Father Lei has already incurred the latae sententiae [automatic] excommunication which is further ‘declared’ publicly by the Holy See,” the Congregation noted. Emphasizing that the Holy See “is the only place he can go for reconciliation,” the Congregation added that “he, though ordained bishop, has no power to govern the diocese. Thus, priests and faithful (except for grave cause, e.g., in point of death) should not only avoid receiving sacraments from him, but also keep him away from celebrating all forms of liturgy or ecclesial ceremony, and to suspend the liturgy or ceremony, in case he does not observe the prohibition.”

If the excommunication is lifted, Father Lei will not automatically exercise his episcopal ministry.

He has to implement meticulously the instruction given to him by the Holy See. Afterwards, the Holy Father, based on his true repentance, removes his excommunication. Until then, he will remain excommunicated … The Holy See has so far expressed that for some serious reasons Father Lei cannot be appointed bishop. In other words, even if his excommunication is removed, he is not entitled to acting like a bishop, wearing a bishop’s insignia, and being addressed as bishop.

Citing the Code of Canon Law, the Congregation added that the seven bishops who consecrated Father Lei are likewise presumed to be automatically excommunicated because “when an external violation has occurred, imputability is presumed unless it is otherwise apparent.” They are not permitted to “continue their normal episcopal ministry.”

“First and foremost, it is their duty to immediately approach the Holy See for forgiveness and to explain reasons for which they have participated in the illegitimate episcopal ordination and wait for the reply from the Holy See.”

Vatican statements have indicated that Chinese bishops may not be subject to excommunication if they were compelled to participate in illicit ordinations. Addressing the question, “What, if a consecrating bishop in his conscience holds that he has not incurred the excommunication?”, the Congregation replied:

“Conscience” is a sacred place where the bishop in question has to stay honest to God. However, other people cannot see through his conscience. As long as the “presumed imputability” is not removed, the bishop in question has to abstain from all public ministries. In the meantime, he remains obliged to approach the Holy See.

The priests and the faithful should “avoid receiving sacraments administered by” the seven bishops and “are very much encouraged to pray for [them] and to remind [them], when needed, of the teaching of the Church.”

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  • Posted by: Defender - Jul. 14, 2011 2:44 PM ET USA

    "Vatican statements have indicated that Chinese bishops may not be subject to excommunication if they were compelled to participate in illicit ordinations," is problematic, isn't it? We have those in the "underground" Church who have stayed in communion with Rome for over half a century, suffering imprisonment, torture and death - all resisting being "compelled" to renounce the Faith or join the Patriotic church while others do not. What does this say?

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