“Steeped in Romanity” — Fr. Victor-Alain Berto

Articles written, translated or selected by John S. Daly

The guiding star of this site is fidelity to Rome.

From torrid south to frozen north,
The wave harmonious stretches forth,
Yet strikes no chord more true to Rome’s,
Than rings within our hearts and homes.
Cardinal Wiseman

Cardinal de Lugo on Communicatio in Sacris

Cardinal John de Lugo (1) S.J. (1583-1660)

On Communication in Religious Rites with Heretics

Tractatus de Virtute Fidei Divinae: Disputatio XXII, Sectio 1.

The second chief doubt is whether we may communicate with an undeclared heretic only in civil and human affairs, or even in sacred and spiritual things. It is certain that we cannot communicate with heretics in the rites proper to a heretical sect, because this would be contrary to the precept of confessing the faith and would contain an implicit profession of error. But the question relates to sacred matters containing no error, e.g. whether it is lawful to hear Mass with a heretic, or to celebrate in his presence, or to be present while he celebrates in a Catholic rite, etc.

This is denied by Basil. Pont. […] where he says, “one may not celebrate in the presence of a heretic on any grounds, not even by virtue of very grave fear,” and he takes this for granted and offers no proof of his claim. I am astonished that such a learned man should have failed to notice that the authority of all the Doctors is against him, and that they are followed by Sanchez […], Suarez […], Azor […] and others, followed by Hurtado […], and this [sc. the opposing view] is certain from what has been said, because an undeclared excommunicate who is not notoriously guilty of striking a cleric, need not be avoided even in sacred rites, as is established by the said litterae extravagantes (2), and the fact that he is a heretic is not a special reason why it should be unlawful unless on some other grounds there be scandal or irreverence against the faith, or some other such factor, all of which are extrinsic and not always found.


Thirdly however an object of greater doubt is whether Catholics may receive the sacraments from heretics who have not been declared to be such. This is denied by Azor. […], though he is scarcely consistent as to his grounds, for in the first place he says that this is due not only to the excommunication, but also to the heresy; but in the second place he says that it is on account not of the heresy but of the excommunication, inasmuch as every excommunicate, even occult, lacks jurisdiction. Soto agrees with him […], though on different grounds, since he thinks that all heretics and schismatics are deemed to have been excommunicated by name and to be vitandi.

But the opposite view is generally held [communis] and is the true one, unless it should be illicit in a given case for some other reason such as scandal or implicit denial of the faith, or because charity obliges one to impede the sin of the heretical minister administering unworthily where necessity does not urge. This is the teaching of Navarro and Sanchez […], Suarez […], Hurtado […] and is what I have said in speaking of the sacrament of penance […] and of matrimony and the other sacraments […]. It is also certain by virtue of the said litterae extravagantes(3) in which communication with excommunicati tolerati is conceded to the faithful in the reception and administration of the sacraments.

So as these heretics are not declared excommunicates or notoriously guilty of striking a cleric, there is no reason why we should be prevented from receiving the sacraments from them because of their excommunication, although on other grounds it may often be illicit to do so unless necessity should excuse as I have explained in the said places.

Explanatory Note Added by JSD

The above text quoted from one of the greatest theologians in the history of the Church highlights an important distinction often overlooked by those who appeal to the Church’s law against communicatio in sacris cum hæreticis to forbid Catholics in our days to go to the Mass of this or that priest whom these zealots have – rightly or wrongly – branded a heretic.

Cardinal de Lugo holds that the law forbidding Catholics to participate in worship together with heretics or schismatics does not apply unless those in question have been declared to be such by the Church (or belong to a condemned sect). And de Lugo also shows that the majority of theologians hold his view on this subject, against a minority who disagree.

This teaching is supported by Pope Martin V's Ad Evitanda Scandala which expressly allows communion with excommunicates until they have been condemned by the Church.

Naturally this does not apply to what is certainly forbidden by divine law – as would be participation in a rite which itself contained heresy or which exposed oneself or others to grave scandal.

It should be noted that there has been no noteworthy change in ecclesiastical law on communication in sacris since de Lugo wrote. The law forbidding communicatio in sacris with non-Catholics remains in force (Canon 1258). And the law authorising the reception of the sacraments from uncondemned excommunicates (Canon 2261) remains in force also.

The purpose of drawing attention to this text is not to encourage Catholics to frequent uncondemned heretics or schismatics for the sacraments.

It is to show those who have written on this topic without even discussing this distinction are insufficiently well informed about the matter and are unworthy of trust. The whole issue needs to be re-examined.

It seems very hard to avoid the conclusion that in our days de Lugo would have considered it not intrinsically illicit to assist at Mass offered una cum the Vatican II pseudo-popes, since he allows what is in fact a greater departure from the principle of assisting only at a fully Catholic Mass.


(1) “St. Alphonsus de Liguori does not hesitate to rank him immediately after St. Thomas Aquinas, ‘post S. Thomam facile princeps’, and Benedict XIV calls him ‘a light of the Church’.” (Catholic Encyclopaedia, vol. IX, p. 419)

(2) Pope Martin V, Ad Evitanda Scandala, 1415.

(3) Pope Martin V, ibid.

Here finally, in three languages, is the text of Ad Evitanda Scandala, as referred to by de Lugo.

Ad Evitanda Scandala
Pope Martin V
(Council of Constance)

To avoid scandals and many dangers and relieve timorous consciences by the tenor of these presents we mercifully grant to all Christ's faithful that no one henceforth shall be bound to abstain from communion with anyone in the administration or reception of the sacraments or in any other religious or non-religious acts whatsoever, nor to avoid anyone nor to observe any ecclesiastical interdict, on pretext of any ecclesiastical sentence or censure globally promulgated whether by the law or by an individual; unless the sentence or censure in question has been specifically and expressly published or denounced by the judge on or against a definite person, college, university, church, community or place. Notwithstanding any apostolic or other constitutions to the contrary, save the case of someone of whom it shall be known so notoriously that he has incurred the sentence passed by the canon for laying sacrilegious hands upon a cleric that the fact cannot be concealed by any tergiversation nor excused by any legal defence. For we will abstinence from communion with such a one, in accordance with the canonical sanctions, even though he be not denounced. (Fontes I, 45.)

Afin d’éviter des scandales et de soulager les consciences timorées, par la teneur de ces présents nous accordons miséricordieusement à tous les fidèles du Christ que personne désormais ne sera obligé de s’abstenir de la communion de qui que ce soit dans l’administration et la réception des sacrements ni en tout autre acte, religieux ou non, ni d’éviter qui ce soit, ni d’observer quelque interdit ecclésiastique que ce soit, sous prétexte de quelque sentence ou censure ecclésiastique globalement promulguée par la loi ou par un individu que ce soit ; à moins que la sentence ou la censure dont il s’agit n’ait été spécifiquement et expressément promulguée ou déclarée par le juge contre une particulière personne, collège, université, église, communauté ou endroit. Ceci nonobstant toute constitution, apostolique ou autre, contraire à ces stipulations, sauf le cas de celui dont on sait si notoirement qu’il a encouru la sentence portée par le canon pour port sacrilège de mains violentes sur un clerc que ce fait ne saurait être caché par aucune tergiversation ni excusé par aucune défense juridique. Car de la communion d’un tel nous voulons qu’on s’abstienne, selon les sanctions canoniques, même s’il n’est pas déclaré. (Fontes 1, 45)

Ad evitanda scandala et multa pericula, subveniendumque conscientiis timoratis, omnibus Christi fidelibus, tenore præsentium, misericorditer indulgemus, quod nemo deinceps a communione alicuius in sacramentorum administratione vel receptione aut aliis quibuscumque divinis, vel extra ; prætextu cuiuscumque sententiæ aut censuræ ecclesiasticæ a iure vel ab homine generaliter promulgatæ, teneatur abstinere vel aliquem vitare ac interdictum ecclesiasticum observare : nisi sententia vel censura huiusmodi fuerit in vel contra personam collegium universitatem ecclesiam communitatem aut locum certum vel certa a iudice publicata vel denunciata specialiter et expresse : constitutionibus apostolicis et aliis in contrarium facientibus non obstantibus quibuscumque ; salvo si quem pro sacrilegio et manuum iniectione in clerum sententiam latam a canone adeo notorie constiterit incidisse, quod factum non possit aliqua tergiversationi celari, nec aliquo iuris suffragio excusari. Nam a communione illius, licet denunciatus non fuerit, volumus abstineri, iuxta canonicas sanctiones. (Fontes 1, 45 ; Mansi, tom. 27, coll. 1192, 1193)