CC in brief — May 2024

Catholic Candle note: Catholic Candle normally examines particular issues thoroughly, at length, using the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas and the other Doctors of the Church.  By contrast, our feature CC in Brief, usually gives an extremely short answer to a reader’s question.  We invite readers to submit their own questions.

Q.        Is it permissible for a priest to receive conditional ordination even though he himself has no doubts about the validity of his earlier ordination?

A.        Anytime there is even the smallest reasonable doubt about the validity of a priest’s ordination, he should be conditionally ordained.[1]

When a priest’s ordination is doubtful, that ordination should be treated as invalid.  This is the whole point of conditional ordination.  If a doubtful ordination were treated as valid, then there would never be a reason for a conditional ordination.

However, this smallest doubt (which requires conditional ordination), must be a real, (i.e., an affirmative) doubt.  In other words, there must be a reason to doubt the validity of the ordination. 

A doubt for no reason at all, that is, a wholly negative doubt (“dubium est mere negativum”), is not sufficient to require or even allow conditional ordination.[2]  Such a negative doubt is “entirely imprudent and empty” (“omnino imprudens atque inane”).[3]

Thus, the Catholic Church’s test for determining the need for conditional ordination, is whether there is the smallest real reason to doubt, but (of course) excluding any doubt for no reason at all.

Some priests who received an earlier conciliar “ordination” before coming to tradition, subsequently received a traditional conditional ordination but they have claimed that they themselves had no doubt about the validity of their own prior ordination but received conditional ordination only because some laymen had doubted the prior ordination.

However, in the case where an ordination was really free from even the smallest reasonable doubt, then receiving even a conditional ordination would be a sacrilege.

Further, consider this: if a validly-ordained priest were permitted to receive conditional ordination anyway, without committing sacrilege, then what is the limiting principle?  Would he be permitted to receive conditional ordinations after having already received 100 prior conditional ordinations, simply because some other people continued to have unreasonable doubts about his ordination?  The answer is obviously “no”. 

Therefore, it is clear that a doubt concerning a prior ordination must be a reasonable doubt, at least a small one.  Any doubt which is “entirely imprudent and empty” is not enough to allow conditional ordination regardless of how many people hold such an empty, unreasonable doubt.

Catholic Candle

For further information about the inherent doubtfulness of the conciliar “ordination” rite, read these analyses:

For further information about the doubtfulness of the conciliar “consecration” rite, read this analysis:


[1]           See, e.g., Outlines of Dogmatic Theology, Hunter, S.J., Benziger Bros., 1896, vol. 3, p. 219 (requiring conditional ordination wherever there is even the “smallest doubt” about the validity of the ordination).  Cf., Denzinger 1151 (Condemnation by Pope Innocent XI in 1679 of those accepting probably-valid sacraments and not taking the safer course).

[2]           See, H. Nolin, S.J., Summa Theologiae Moralis, Oeniponte, 1920, vol. III, p.27.

[3]           See, H. Nolin, S.J., Summa Theologiae Moralis, Oeniponte, 1920, vol. III, p.27.