Commentary provided by Traditional Catholics of Houston, Inc., the nonprofit organization that sponsors Saint Jude Shrine.
What is "Ad Evitanda," and why is it applicable to the Crisis the Church is faced with as of 2022?
Pope Martin V’s constitution, Ad Evitanda, was a papal decree issued by the pontiff at the end of the Council of Constance that in 1417 brought to a close the Great Western Schism.
Its purpose was to answer the questions of the faithful about whether or not confessions heard by clergy whose bishops had been appointed by antipopes would need to be heard again by other clergy, and if marriage vows exchanged in front of those same priests priests needed to be repeated. Ad Evitanda also seems to resolve all questions on whether or not a validly ordained and lawful Catholic priest, who has not been excommunicated by a declaratory sentence, can confer absolution and witness marriages in any location when the people ask for the Sacraments of Penance and for Matrimony.
Father P. Charles Augustine's commentary on Canon 2261 has been cited for many years by the custodians of Latin Mass centers to support their requests to priests to administer the Sacraments to their congregations even the invited clergy are from other dioceses. The canon is primarily concerned with the liberty that is permitted to the faithful to request the Sacraments from any authentic Catholic priest, even if he is excommunicated, to administer the Sacraments to the faithful in any serious need. Therefore, if such permission was granted to the faithful in the past to request the services of excommunicated clergy, how much more so is it lawful today for Catholics to request the Sacraments from priests who are not excommunicated?
In his commentary, Father Augustine cites Ad Evitanda as part of the basis for Canon 2261. He writes:
“… Provided the minister is not a vitandus [publicly excommunicated by a bishop] or under a declaratory or condemnatory sentence, the faithful may, for any just, reason, ask him to administer the Sacraments and sacramentals to them. This is more especially true if no other minister is available, in which case the excommunicated minister thus asked may administer the Sacraments and sacramentals without as much as inquiring for the reason why the petitioner wishes to receive them. Hence the faithful are to judge in such cases whether the reason is just. Any reason may be called just which promotes devotion or wards off temptations or is prompted by real convenience, for instance, if one does not like to call another minister …
“This mitigation—such it is even in comparison with Martin V's decree “Ad evitanda”—is accorded only in case the minister is not vitandus nor under a declaratory or condemnatory sentence …
“…If the minister, i.e., priest, is a vitandus or excommunicated in virtue of a condemnatory or declaratory sentence, the faithful may demand from him absolution in danger of death, even though other priests be present who are not excommunicated, but other Sacraments or sacramentals they may receive from such a priest only if no other ministers are available …
“…if no other non-excommunicated priests are present, an excommunicated one may administer all the Sacraments and sacramentals when there is danger of death. This interpretation is justified by the psychological condition of the sick person and affords another proof of the kindness of the Church.”
How does Canon 2261 facilitate the functioning of emergency True Mass centers like Saint Jude's?
CCanon 2261 appears to expand to a much larger degree the options open to Catholics in the choice of priests that they may invite to come to Mass centers like Saint Jude’s under the current climate of utter desolation and confusion.
Toward the end of the 39-year-long Great Western Schism, the true Pope, Gregory XII (a.k.a. Angelo Corraro), gave up his rightful claim to the papal office on the condition that the Council of Constance, already in session, would depose the two false claimants (Benedict XIII a.k.a. Pedro de Luna, and John XXIII a.k.a. Baldasar Cosa), to pave the way for a new Pope to be elected. Ultimately, all three rival factions agreed to unite behind the new Pope, Martin V (a.k.a. Oddone Colonna).
The first order of business for the new pontiff was to relieve the consciences of the faithful who had received Sacraments from clergy who were operating without formal delegation from a lawful bishop. Unfortunately, there is no visible pontiff during today's extended interregnum and usurpation who can sort out with certainty what clergy the faithful may approach for the Sacraments.
"Ad Evitanda," may provide a breakthrough for tapping into a new source of clergy for Saint Jude Shrine and other true Mass centers
In the 1970s and '80s, there was still a supply of older priests who had been ordained through normal channels, in the 1940s, '50s, and early to mid '60s. Saint Jude's cautious approach to limiting its selection of invited clergy from that era only seemed prudent and reasonable at the time. However, those good priests are nearly all gone now, and if the Church is going to remain visible anywhere in the world, remnant Catholics will need to examine the generous latitude that Pope Martín V granted to the faithful of his time and determine if those privileges apply to the current generation of orphaned faithful. For instance, there is the possibility of conditional ordination of many good-willed Novus Ordo clergy by elderly bishops with valid episcopal orders. These bishops retired many years ago. They did not receive their episcopal delegation from a true Pope because they were all appointed to their dioceses by John XXIII or Paul VI. However their episcopal orders are valid because the apostolic rite of episcopal consecration was still in use when they were made bishops. If even one of them were to agree to provided conditional ordination to Novus Ordo clergy who have awakened to present-day realities and now seek valid priestly orders, a new avenue might become available for a new generation of true Catholic priests to assist the remnant Church. Pope Martin seems to be saying that since no declaratory condemnation has ever been officially pronounced by the Church against these aged bishops, then there is no sentence or penalty that is incurred by the faithful for requesting the Sacraments from them.
An English translation of Pope Martin V's "Ad Evitanda" is presented here below:
"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 henceforth 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 defense. For we will abstinence from communion with such a one, in accordance with the canonical sanctions, even though he be not denounced."