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Disputed Ordinations
The Irish Times - Friday, May 14, 1999

Sir, - I write on behalf of the Bishop of Down and Connor, Dr Patrick Walsh, concerning two assertions made by Fr Pat Buckley (May 10th).

1. Fr Buckley states that the letter from Bishop Walsh suspending him from his priestly functions was sent on June 14th, 1998. It was, in fact, sent on June 5th.

2. Fr Buckley states that when he sent this letter Bishop Walsh "knew that I had already been a bishop for a month". I have to state categorically that this is untrue.

As it happens, it was I who drew Bishop Walsh's attention to the News of the World of June 14th, 1998, in which Fr Buckley first announced, and from which Bishop Walsh first learned, that he (Fr Buckley) claimed to be a "bishop". –

Yours, etc.,

John McManus,
Media Liaison Officer,
Diocese of Down & Connor,
St Malachy's College,
Belfast 15.

Disputed Ordinations
The Irish Times - Friday, May 14, 1999

Sir, - It seems likely under strict interpretation of the serpentine mechanisms of Roman Catholic Canon Law that the consecration of Pat Buckley and Michael Cox as bishops, as well as the ordination of Sinead O'Connor as a priest, are all valid. By the same yardstick, the Vatican continues to challenge the validity of the ordination of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Surely the kind of legalism under which the Archbishop of Canterbury may not be a valid priest whereas Sinead O'Connor may be raises some questions. -

Yours, etc.,
Senator David Norris,
Seanad Eireann,
Baile Atha Cliath 2.
Disputed Ordinations
The Irish Times - Monday, May 10, 1999

Sir, - After my thorough rebuttal of Father Vincent Twomey's assertions about the validity of my episcopal consecration (April 29th) I note that the next man into the Catholic Hierarchy's corner of the ring is its "communications officer", Father Martin Clarke (May 6th). I'm afraid the PR man has an even poorer grasp than the moral theologian and both men engage in tactics that no longer work in Ireland - less-than-factual side swipes and appeals to the "Holy See".

When Bishop Patrick Walsh of Down and Connor sent me his meaningless letter of suspension as a priest on June 14th, 1998, he knew that I had already been a bishop for a month! And so we had the scenario of Bishop Walsh closing the stable door after the papal bull had fled! Suspending someone after you claim they are automatically excommunicated is the same as imposing a driving ban on a man who has lost his arms and legs in an accident! It shows how pathetic Canon Law and clerical legalism really is. But we must keep the books right, mustn't we?

We have over 40 members of the Irish Episcopal Conference. They are all Doctors of Divinity. Here we have a major theological issue that requires serious debate. I am ready to defend my Holy Orders and pastoral ministry at a public enquiry before any one of these bishops or all of them together. But instead all we get is ill-informed half-arguments from a Maynooth professor who is not a member of the secular clergy and a media spokesman who has no expertise in this area. As the Scriptures say: "Where are the philosophers now? Where are the wise men of our age"?

Would someone in authority in the Church please answer the following questions:

1. If Bishop Cox's consecrator, ordained and consecrated at Palmar de Troya, was not validly ordained and consecrated, why did the Bishop of Ferns laicise him before allowing him to marry?
2. If Bishop Cox was not validly ordained and consecrated, why has Bishop Willie Walsh said that he is and why does the Archdiocese of Dublin ask him to be laicised?
3. If I was not validly consecrated, why did the Church ask me to go to confession to another Irish bishop and have him get Rome to secretly relieve me of episcopal orders so that my consecration would never become public knowledge in Ireland?
4. If I am not validly consecrated, why has the Church said that I am "automatically excommunicated"? One can only be excommunicated in that context by being validly consecrated a bishop without the so-called papal mandate.

These are the issues to be addressed - in a proper theological debate not typified by muck-slinging or black propaganda.

Conscious that Bishop Michael Cox, though absolutely valid, was somewhat of a "loose canon" (Sinead O'Connor, etc.) and conscious that the Church could get to Bishop Cox's consecrator (now a member of the Church's rightwing Neo Catechumenate organisation) I took the precaution on February 14th, 1999, of receiving "conditional consecration" from an American Catholic bishop.

These "conditional" orders come not from Archbishop Ngo Dinh Thue through Palmar de Troya but from Cardinal Antonio Barberini (1607-1671), nephew of Pope Urban VIII and Archbishop of Rheims; through Cardinal Scipione Rebiba (c1520-1582), Patriarch of Constantinople, and most importantly of all through Pope Benedict XIII (Pietro Francesco Maria Orsini 16491726).

I am no loose canon. I've wanted to be a priest since I was three years old. I've attended daily Mass since I was four years old. I am absolutely committed to my priestly ordination of 1976. I am a validly consecrated Catholic bishop and with all my heart and passion I will continue to minister to the growing number of Irish Catholics and Christians who are being alienated by a church that is strangled by legalism and blatantly lacking in compassion.

The Father Twomeys and the Father Clarkes of the Church do not dismay me in the least. But I feel a huge responsibility to speak the truth to the Irish people and the thoughtful readers of The Irish Times. –

Yours, etc.,

Patrick Buckley,
Presiding Bishop,

The Oratory Society,
Larne, Co Antrim.

Official View Of Ordinations
The Irish Times - Thursday, May 6, 1999

Sir, - There are several facts which should be put on the public record in response to the letter from Fr Pat Buckley (April 29th).

1. On June 5th, 1998, the Bishop of Down and Connor, Dr Patrick Walsh, suspended Fr Pat Buckley from the exercise of his priestly functions after he had failed to give an assurance that he would accept the authority of the Church and wholly desist from his malpractice in respect of the Sacrament of Marriage. This assurance had been formally requested by Bishop Walsh in a letter to Fr Buckley on May 7th, 1998.

2. On June 14th, 1998, Fr Buckley announced in the News of the World, that he had been "ordained" a bishop a month earlier by Michael Cox. On behalf of the Irish Bishops' Conference, I have to state that there is no justification for considering as valid the "Episcopal ordination" received by Fr Buckley. The Holy See has confirmed this judgement.

3. The same judgement has been confirmed by the Holy See in relation to the supposed Episcopal ordination of Michael Cox by a person who had himself been "ordained" by Clemente Gomez, leader of a breakaway sect of apocalyptic pseudo-visionaries based at Palmar de Troya, Spain. On the death of Pope Paul VI in 1978, Gomez declared himself to be his successor, styling himself Pope Gregory XVII.

4. With regard to the "ordinations" associated directly or indirectly with the Palmar de Troya cult, from which Michael Cox derives his claim to legitimacy of orders, the Holy See formally declared in 1976, and again in 1983, that "the Church does not nor shall it recognise" them. -

Yours, etc.,

 Rev Martin Clarke,
Communications Officer,
Irish Bishops' Conference,
Booterstown Avenue,
Blackrock, Co. Dublin.


Dissident Bishop Says More Women Want To Be Ordained Bishop
The Irish Times - Wednesday, May 5, 1999  by KITTY HOLLAND

The dissident bishop Michael Cox, who ordained singer Sinead O'Connor almost a fortnight ago, has been approached by several women who also wish to be ordained, he has told The Irish Times.

The first candidate would be interviewed this week, he said. He would not say which part of the country she was from, though he indicated that all the women were from the Republic and were in their late 30s to early 40s.

"I will discuss all the issues with the women individually from the basics - their knowledge of the 10 Commandments, their knowledge of all the sacraments and their knowledge of the Holy Bible.

"Then I will find out what they know about the Mass and make sure they have been baptised and confirmed as Catholics."

He said there would be a series of conversations with each woman before he decided whether the person had a "true vocation".

"It is not up to me to discriminate against any woman who contacts me. I will meet with anyone who says she has a sincere vocation."

He said he would train them himself "as was the procedure in the early church", adding that it would make no difference whether they were single, married or divorced.

He claimed the women contacted him following the ordination of Ms O'Connor in Lourdes almost a fortnight ago.

She has changed her name to Mother Bernadette Maria.

Before Ms O'Connor's ordination, one other Catholic woman had been ordained in the State. In September, Mother Francis Meigh was ordained by dissident Bishop Pat Buckley at a ceremony in Omeath, Co Louth. Bishop Michael Cox attended that ceremony. He had ordained Father Buckley as a bishop five months earlier.

The Roman Catholic Church regards such ordinations as invalid, though theologians have described them as "valid but unlawful" in Canon Law.

Commenting on the contacts he has had from women interested in becoming priests, Bishop Cox said they were the "future" of the church.

"The church is dying. Seminaries are closing down and they are in dire need of priests."

Following the ordination of Mother Bernadette Maria "people are coming back to the church.

"I have had very many calls from people saying: `If Sinead O'Connor can come back to the church, so can I.' She was so disillusioned with the church and if she can find a way back, so can anyone. She is an inspiration to people," he said.

Bishop Cox has almost completed an autobiography which he hopes will be published before January.

He said it was being written under a working title, Mother and Father, and a US publishing house was interested in it.

Bishop Cox has headed his own religious order since 1982. He uses the title of the bishop superior of the Irish Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church.
His ministry is based at a former Protestant church, St Coleman's, at Cree, near Birr, Co Offaly.

O'Connor halts payment to bishop who ordained her
The Irish Times - Thursday, April 29, 1999 by ROISIN INGLE

Sinead O'Connor says she has sought the return of a £150,000 donation she gave to the dissident bishop who ordained her in order that doubt will not be cast on the validity of her priesthood.

The Dublin-born singer, who says she has changed her name to Mother Bernadette Mary O'Connor following her ordination ceremony last Thursday in Lourdes, told The Irish Times yesterday that she had contacted her bank to cancel the transfer of the sum to Tridentine bishop Michael Cox.

The bishop has said that if he receives the money in the meantime he will return it to the singer, who is no longer in Lourdes.

Speaking by telephone from an unknown location on the Continent, Ms O'Connor said that she was also considering getting ordained again as "a double protective measure".

Bishop Pat Buckley had speculated that the donation could be viewed as simony - the act of purchasing a sacrament - which would invalidate the ordination.

"Bishop Cox and I know that the donation had nothing to do with my ordination, but I am taking it back for protective reasons. I suspect that when the church looks at my case they will examine every aspect of it and this is double, double protection," Ms O'Connor said.

Bishop Buckley had described the donation as "disturbing" and said he would be extremely worried if money was attached to the performance of a sacrament.
Yesterday he said that the singer had since sought "spiritual guidance" from him. He had agreed to organise a six-week silent retreat for her with a group of monks, possibly in Ireland, at the end of May.

The £150,000 donation had originally been intended for a healing centre for Travellers in Bishop Cox's ministry in Birr, Co Offaly, and to fund the Bishop's hernia operation.

Bishop Cox said yesterday that he was in full agreement with Ms O'Connor: "Some people were getting the impression that Mother Bernadette bought her ordination and that is utterly wrong . . . I would never prostitute my holy orders."

Ms O'Connor said yesterday that she still intended to use the money to set up a healing centre, probably in Lourdes, where she has recently purchased a home. "I don't want people to feel let down . . . the Travellers will still be able to come to be healed and the costs will be covered by my ministry, which will be funded by my musical career."

She added that she was enjoying "being alone with God" for the first time since her ordination and was considering taking a three-year vow of celibacy.

Difficult theological questions raised by O'Connor `ordination'
The Irish Times - Tuesday, April 27, 1999 by Fr Vincent Twomey

No wonder people are confused. The sensational news that Sinead O'Connor claims to have been ordained a priest by a "Tridentine bishop" raises all kinds of tricky theological and canonical issues which are difficult enough even for the expert in those areas to disentangle, not to mention the man or woman in the street.

The most healthy reaction might be to treat the whole thing as a big joke. And yet the issues are undoubtedly serious, comparable to somebody setting himself or herself up as a judge of the Circuit or High Court. This would be seen as outrageous. The sad thing is that, due to the general collapse of our religious culture, almost anything in the realm of faith can be claimed by anybody - and be taken seriously by the public media. As a result, the issues themselves are inevitably, albeit unintentionally, trivialised.

Michael Cox bases his claim to be a bishop on a succession that goes back to an excommunicated Vietnamese archbishop. That bishop ordained several priests and bishops in January 1976 in the village of Palmar de Troya, in Spain, acting, it would seem, on instructions from somebody claiming to be a visionary.

The Vatican reacted almost immediately (September 17th, 1976), drawing attention to the penalties - including excommunication - incurred by the archbishop and those he had ordained. Later, the archbishop requested and obtained absolution from the excommunication.

The repentance was short-lived. From 1981 onwards the archbishop attempted to ordain other priests and bishops, on the basis that "the See of the Catholic Church of Rome was vacant".

Since this was evidently not the case, evident, that is, to all but the devotees of Palmar de Troya, the Congregation for the Faith, "by a special mandate of His Holiness Pope John Paul II" reaffirmed in 1983 the original penalties incurred, including automatic excommunication of the archbishop and those he tried to ordain. They were forbidden to attempt to act as priests or bishops.

Most importantly, the Congregation for the Faith affirmed that "the Church does not nor shall it recognise their ordination".

Moreover, the document continues, the Church "considers them in the state which each had previously", in other words as laymen or priests. Thus, in the eyes of the Church, we are dealing with a Mr Michael Cox, a Father Pat Buckley, whom he attempted to ordain a bishop, and, most recently, a Ms Sinead O'Connor.

The document is one that is phrased in canonical terms, two of which have fascinated the public since last Saturday: "illicit" and "valid". The former means that a public and solemn act of the Church, such as the administration of a sacrament, was carried out in contravention of the legal conditions set down by the Church.

Validity in this context belongs to the sphere of sacramental theology and affirms that a sacrament, though not executed in accordance with the legal conditions set down by the Church is nonetheless effective as a sacrament, that is, God's intended effect takes place.

An example would be a priest who has been suspended from exercise of the priesthood, yet gives absolution or celebrates Mass. His act would be gravely evil, in fact sacrilegious, but the unsuspecting faithful would still have received absolution or attended a valid Mass.

The Vatican document quoted above does mention the question of the validity of those ordained by the excommunicated Vietnamese archbishop in an aside - effectively leaving it aside for further study. The Church is reluctant to deny the validity of any sacrament, irrespective of the circumstances, and generally takes its time before making an authoritative decision.

Central to the question of validity is the intention to do as Christ intended. It is unlikely that any sensible person could be persuaded that the antics of the Palmar de Troya cult could be seen to fulfil this condition.

Is Michel Cox a validly ordained bishop? In short the answer must be no.

Vincent Twomey SVD is a lecturer in moral theology and editor of the Irish Theological Quarterly, Pontifical University, Maynooth

Tridentine Bishops
The Irish Times - Thursday, June 18, 1998

Sir, - Michael Cox describes himself as a "Tridentine" bishop. By this, he seems to mean that because he celebrates the Tridentine Mass, he must be a Tridentine Bishop.

There is no Tridentine Church as such. Catholic laity may attend the Tridentine Mass, if allowed under the terms of the 1984 instruction (indult) of Pope John Paul II. I can supply information in respect of indult Masses in Ireland and I can assure readers that none of Bishop Cox's Masses qualify. The Bishop has made no approach to the Ecclesia Dei Commission in Rome, which has the brief of reconciling disaffected traditionalists with the "institutional" Church.

Archbishop Lefebvre's Society of St Pius X has totally repudiated Bishop Cox. Put simply, the Bishop appears to be operating on his own initiative, and seems to believe the adjective "Tridentine" can be employed as an excuse for his completely irregular ministry. Should he read the documents of the Council of Trent (from which the word "Tridentine" is derived) he will find grave penalties prescribed for such activities.

Elsewhere Bishop Cox describes himself as a traditionalist. If one reads the agenda proffered by himself and Bishop Pat Buckley, one sees a programme impossible to accommodate with Catholic tradition. By the way, the two bishops presumably recognise John Paul II as Supreme Pontiff - or are they sedevacantists (people who think there is at present no validly-elected Pope)? –

Yours, etc.,
Peader Laighleis,
Chairman, Ecclesia Dei Ireland,
Old Court,
Dublin 24.

Excommunication follows after priest is made a bishop
The Irish Times - Monday, June 15, 1998 by RODDY O'SULLIVAN

The rebel cleric, Bishop Pat Buckley, has excommunicated himself from the Roman Catholic Church by being consecrated as a bishop, a Hierarchy spokesman has said.

The church spokesman said the ordination of Bishop Buckley by the Tridentine bishop, Dr Michael Cox, was "valid but unlawful" (under Canon law).
A statement from Bishop Cox said he had consecrated Father Buckley as a bishop at Bishop Buckley's Co Antrim home on May 19th.

Bishop Cox said he had "come to know of Bishop Buckley's compassionate work" and found himself "in full agreement with him on many matters". He had consecrated Bishop Buckley "according to the full Roman rite of episcopal ordination and consecration".

"If I as a traditionalist and he as a liberal can co-operate it will give great example to the church on accommodating both", he said.

A Hierarchy representative said that as a result of the ordination, both "bishops" had excommunicated themselves. Canon 1382 of Catholic Church law states: "Both the bishop, who without a pontifical mandate, consecrates a person a bishop, and the one who receives the consecration from him, incur a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See". This means that the automatic excommunication can be lifted only by the Holy See and the Pope.

Mr Jim Cantwell, director of the Catholic Press and Information Office, said the office of bishop "is essential to the unity of the Catholic Church". It breached that unity for a person to consecrate another bishop or to accept ordination on his own authority alone "and without any mandate from the Holy See."
Bishop Buckley said excommunication meant nothing to him as he is "very unhappy with canon law and how it can abuse human rights. It's a very medieval law which allows bishops to impose sentence without trial. We're both part of God's family."

Bishops Buckley and Cox are to found a society in which they will "co-operate pastorally and which will welcome men and women of every persuasion".
"We intend particularly looking at re-enacting the Holy Orders of those priests who have left and indeed we will examine the whole area of women's ministry in the church", a statement from Bishop Cox said.

Bishop Buckley said he had been praying and thinking about extending his ministry. Being a bishop would allow him to "ordain and consecrate others" who will continue his "special ministry to the many groups of people who are rejected by the `official church'." He said he was "desirous of dialogue with the Irish Catholic Hierarchy".