Open Letter

Regarding Confessional Jurisdiction

An Open Letter from Gary Giuffré to Houston Area Traditional Catholics

19 November 2023

What follows is a revised version of the Saint Jude Shrine policy statement regarding episcopal delegation of priestly jurisdiction which is necessary for absolution.  This report warrants a reposting—this time in the body of our newsletter and website—because many people missed it when it was previously posted on 3 September 2023, as it was only accessible with a small link that was largely overlooked. 


But first, it should be understood precisely what Saint Jude Shrine is, and on what basis it operates.


In 1972, a handful of Catholic laymen in the Greater Houston area, among whom I was one, began to study the possibility of approaching some local clergy for the purpose of preserving the ancient Roman liturgy and to provide material support to the clergy who would offer it publicly.  At first we were only able to find a few out-of-town Latin Mass clergy who were willing to help us.    But the publicity this created led to our being contacted by similar lay associations all over the USA and Canada.  Moreover, it ultimately resulted in our collaboration with Father Joseph Gedra’s “Priests’ Committee for the Preservation of the Tridentine Latin Mass,” whose members exceeded 250 Catholic priests and monsignori, and whose national convention we hosted in February 1974.  From that reserve of senior clergy, both local and from out of town, have come 58 authentic Catholic priests who have assisted our congregation for 50 years.  The assistance of these clergy facilitated our acquisition of Holy Family Catholic Mission church building and hall property in 1975, which for practical and legal reasons was renamed Saint Jude Shrine.


In time, three priests, Father Robert Grant, Father George Musey, and Monsignor John D. Connolly, who were either retired from the Galveston diocese, or on sick leave, or had been incardinated with the diocese years before, offered the traditional Latin Mass for us for a number years.


The validity of our veteran Catholic priests was never in doubt.  All were ordained years, or even decades, before the destruction of Holy Orders and Episcopal Orders took place in 1968.  But just as importantly, all had been given the specific delegation by valid and lawful bishops that is absolutely necessary for a priest to administer absolution and to witness marriages.  That is because there are two powers associated with the priesthood: 1) The Power of Orders, which makes a man a priest, and; 2) The Power of Jurisdiction which makes the priest a CATHOLIC Priest.  For, without that second power, the priest is not a confessor, and cannot administer absolution to penitents who approach him to confess their sins.  Of this requirement for the valid administration of absolution there can be no exception, save in danger of death.  As Father P. Charles Augustine wrote in his eight-volume work, “A Commentary on the New Code of the Canon Law,” in 1918, pages 252-253;


“The sole minister of this sacrament [of Penance] is the priest, who, to absolve validly, needs not only the power of order, but also the power of jurisdiction, either ordinary or delegated, over the penitent.


“This … is a dogmatic truth …. The Church requires the priestly character as the fundamental condition or aptitude because of the hieratic element which is intimately connected with the jurisdictional power. But since the exercise of this power is really a judiciary act, which pre-supposes jurisdiction, jurisdiction also is essentially required.”


Also, from Fathers Spirago and Clarke, we read the following commentary from their classic work, “The Catechism Explained” (1899), pages 646-647:


“The Sacrament of Holy Orders only confers the perpetual power, not the right, to exercise the functions of a priest.  The newly ordained cannot therefore make use in any place of their sacerdotal powers, until they have received ecclesiastical authorization … Ecclesiastical jurisdiction is given to the priest by his bishop; the bishops receive it from the Pope … A priest must have faculties for hearing confessions, from the bishop … Anyone who should be so daring as to exercise any priestly functions without having been admitted to Holy Orders or without episcopal authorization, would, in Catholic countries, be punished by the secular government; at any rate, terrible chastisements would fall on him from God …”


The eminent Church scholar, Ludovico Billot, wrote in his treatise, De Ecclesiae Sacramentis, Book II, Thesis 23, §1, pages 232-234, the following:


“[I]t is to be noted that jurisdiction, even in the internal forum of Penance, is in no way given to the priest in virtue of ordination … the ordinand [priest] is deputed [commissioned] to exercise a sacramental judgment upon his subjects … Therefore it is to be held most certainly, that the aforesaid power of jurisdiction cannot be obtained by anyone except by the conferral of a pastoral office or by the delegation of prelates [bishops] … a priest does not have jurisdiction except by the concession of the Pontiff and Bishops which the Holy Ghost has established to govern the Church of God.”


One of the most prolific canonists and theologians of the 20th century, Father Felix Cappello, spoke very clearly on the requirement of priestly jurisdiction being specifically granted, and that it could not merely be presumed to be “automatically supplied by the Church.”  In his great work, De Sacramentis, II-1, page 398, Father Cappello writes:


“Jurisdiction to hear confessions validly must be granted in writing or by words expressly (can. 879, § 1).


“1º Thus is excluded a presumed grant, which does not really exist, and only would exist if it were requested. …


“4º Some regard as sufficient, in an urgent case, jurisdiction presumed to be present; such as ‘if one is morally certain that the Bishop has received the written request for jurisdiction, and that an affirmative response has been given either to his administrator or by letters, he may, when circumstances are urgent, hear confessions before the letters are receivedor he who conveys the order returns.’ This opinion, although some deny or doubt it, appears probable, as long as the two conditions are indeed present, namely that, 1) he be morally certain that the Bishop has received the written request, and 2) he be morally certain that he has given an affirmative response.


“5º Approbation of jurisdiction whether prudently presumed or even certain, after the confession has been made or heard, assuredly does not suffice. …


According to all [authors], one may not presume any condition upon which, in a particular case, depends the validity of an act … of confessions.”


Finally, no less of an authority on the necessity of jurisdiction than Pope Saint Pius X spoke to this issue in his Catechism from 1908, in response to Questions 8 and 9:


“ … The minister of the Sacrament of Penance is a priest authorized by the Bishop to hear confessions … A priest must be authorized by the Bishop to hear confessions because to administer this sacrament validly, the power of Orders is not enough, but there is also necessary the power of jurisdiction, that is, the power to judge, which must be given by the Bishop.”


How does the above apply to the clergy who have been administering the Sacraments at Saint Jude’s for nearly half a century?  To answer that question it must first be understood that since November 1969, at the latest, there have been no American dioceses, with the possible exception of one or two, where valid priests for the Roman rite have been ordained, or where valid bishops for the Roman rite have been consecrated. Therefore, the only priests that the custodians of Saint Jude’s have invited to offer Mass and hear confessions at the shrine have been those whose ordinations occurred before 1969. 


Except for three visiting clergy sent to us by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre who we hosted for a brief period of time 47 years ago, every single priest who has offered Mass and administered the Sacrament of Penance at Saint Jude’s since Pentecost Sunday, 6 June 1976, has satisfied the criteria required by the Catholic Church to be classified as valid and lawful priest and confessor.


Over the next six years, Saint Jude’s would be assisted by three senior confessors who had received their clerical jurisdiction from the Bishop of the Galveston Diocese during the 1940s and ‘50s.  Additional clergymen traveled to Texas to serve our congregation, bringing with them the delegation they received from their home dioceses and religious orders.  How does that work?


Canon 883 allows for a priest to hear confessions when traveling outside of his territorial jurisdiction.  He may hear confessions for three days while remaining in a diocese different from his own, before he is required to request a renewal of his jurisdiction from the local bishop.  But the canon puts no limit on how long the priest may hear confessions in that diocese if the local bishop is not “easily reached.”  Obviously, that would describe the current apocalyptic situation in the USA where, to our knowledge, there is not a single functioning, valid Catholic diocesan bishop of the Roman rite today. 


Consider also Canon 1098, which addresses Catholic couples who wish to be married before a valid Catholic priest or Bishop who will provide them with the traditional Nuptial Mass and Nuptial Blessing (the latter of which is absolutely required by the Church), but are unable to find a local, authentic minister for this purpose who will officiate as a witness for the Church.  In these cases, Catholics seeking marriage in the Church are required to request the services of another priest, even one who is “of some other diocese.” 


Finally, we are reminded of Canon 2261 by which a priest whose jurisdiction is inactive due to a penalty he has secretly incurred, may administer the Sacraments validly and lawfully requested of him by the faithful who are in any serious need.  The entreaties for the Sacraments put to him by those in serious need thereby reactivate his jurisdiction so that he may fulfill the special appeal put to him.  The point is, if the jurisdiction of the censured priest is reinstated so that he may assist the faithful in need, then how much more so would the Church facilitate the resumption of a priest’s delegation which has become dormant not because he committed any punishable offense, but simply because he is for the time being positioned outside of his territorial jurisdiction?


It is on these principles that senior Catholic priests have been functioning as valid and lawful ministers of the Sacraments to the faithful who have been abandoned and betrayed by the “official church” for over a half century.


There is also the well known circumstance described by Canon 209 which is referred to as “common error,” that is, when a priest with proper jurisdiction is unaware that he has ventured beyond his diocese and then is approached by someone for the Sacraments. When both the priest and penitent are unaware that he is outside of his delegated territory, the Church extends the limits of his faculties so that the confessor may administer absolution validly.  This, of course, is not what happens when a confessor is requested by the custodians of Saint Jude Shrine to absolve the members of their congregation who get in line for confession, because those who are responsible for inviting the priest to Saint Jude’s will have a thorough knowledge of his background beforehand.


Nevertheless, in each example cited above, the key condition that must be satisfied so that the Canons will apply is the requirement that the priest in question must have already been granted jurisdiction to exercise his priestly mission within some territory or obedience by a true Catholic bishop.   Even under the current catastrophic conditions in which the Church finds herself today, there is no Canon that would allow a “free-lance” priest with no mission from a bishop of the Church to function as an authentic Catholic confessor who is able to administer absolution lawfully, and hence, validly to the faithful at large on a regular basis. 


The only exception to this rule is provided by Canon 882 in cases of “danger of death,” when a penitent is truly at risk of expiring, and there is no duly authorized Catholic priest at hand to administer the Last Rites of the Church to him.  In such cases, any valid priest, even a schismatic, such as a Greek or Russian Orthodox clergyman, is granted emergency faculties directly by the Catholic Church in order to provide absolution and Extreme Unction to a Catholic on his deathbed who has no other options for the Last Sacraments.   But canonists of the highest rank in the Church have been consistently adamant that under no other circumstances can “supplied jurisdiction” be presumed in any case other than “danger of death.”


With this one and only exemption from the absolute necessity for the clergy to obtain delegation from a legitimate episcopal authority so that they may validly absolve the faithful from their sins, it is incomprehensible how the “retired” Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, ex-Superior General of the Holy Ghost Fathers and former ordinary for the African missionary diocese of Senegal, could have in good conscience set up a seminary in Econe, Switzerland, in the early-to-mid 1970s, with the plan of producing “half-priests,” who at best, were conferred with the power of orders, but were sent out across the globe without the other half of the priesthood, the power of jurisdiction.  What was he thinking?  We do not know.  But from the beginning, Lefebvre’s hybrid clergy have been at the center of controversy everywhere they have appeared, right up to the present day.  Scandal upon scandal continues to plague the Lefebvre society thirty-two years after the archbishop’s death, as its turnover and defection rates rival that of the conciliar church.


Whether by design or the inevitable result of priests who are not really Catholic priests, Marcel Lefebvre’s Society of Saint of Saint Pius X, aka SSPX, has split on multiple occasions, each time creating clones of itself including, the Society of Saint Pius V or, SSPV, which has also split into two or three opposing camps, sometimes referred to SSP2½ and SSP1¼. 

After the initial splits within the SSPX, yet another group of ex-SSPX clergy organized the Sacerdotal Fraternity of Saint Peter, FSSP, that was formally aligned with apostate Rome from its beginnings. With very few exceptions, its priests have nearly all been “ordained” in the new rite of priestly orders by invalid bishops, such as Cardinals Stickler and Ratzinger, who were themselves invalidly consecrated as “bishops” with the new rite of episcopal orders introduced by Paul VI.


More recently, another incarnation of the ever-morphing SSPX that is fracturing into smaller and smaller committees of irrelevance, is the so-called “Recognize and Resist,” frequently abbreviated to R&R


Developing in parallel fashion with the rapidly sub-dividing SSPX is the so-called “Thuc-Line,” which refers to a spiritual progeny of alleged bishops that claim their lineage from the late Vietnamese Bishop Ngo Dinh Thuc. 


The brother of Bishop Thuc, Ngo Dinh Diem was assassinated by the CIA in 1963.  Three more of Thuc’s bothers were also murdered in Vietnam, and the ordeal left the prelate shattered. But prior to Diem’s killing, Thuc had already been summoned to Rome to attend Vatican II where he became fixated on promoting Church “dialogue” with the Buddhists.  After Vatican II, the bishop took up residence in Albano, Italy, but then ventured to Palmar de Troya, Spain, where on 11 January 1976, he ordained, then consecrated, the self-proclaimed stigmatist, Clemente Domigues Gomez, and four accomplices. The consecrations facilitated the launch of the “Palmarian Church,” where Clemente was crowned as its “pope.”  Thuc was “excommunicated” by antipope Paul VI for the independent consecrations. Thuc then “recanted,” was reconciled with the conciliar church, and thereafter settled in Toulon, France. But in 1981, he resumed consecrating more independent bishops, beginning with the Dominican priest, Guérard des Lauriers, and then one year later consecrated two Mexican priests, Moises Carmona of Acapulco and Adolfo Zamora, at the behest of two German doctors of veterinarian medicine, Hiller and Heller.  Thuc conditionally consecrated two prelates of the schismatic Old Catholic Church, Jean Laborie and Christian Datessen. Once the “genie was out of the bottle” for free and easy episcopal consecrations, there was no limit to who would be mitered next.  At last count, the Thuc line included a convicted felon sex offender, a high priest of the occult, and an African woman witch doctor.  Thus, Bishop Thuc was used by shameless opportunists who persuaded him to attempt several ill-advised, illicit episcopal consecrations during the early 1980s that could have rendered him automatically excommunicated, irrespective of the mock sentence pronounced against him by Montini, were he in his right mind at the time.


Here are just a few of the scores if not hundreds of “bishops” now claiming lineage from Ngo Dinh Thuc, as compiled by Catholic Historian and researcher, Mr. John Weiskittel, with his brief comments:


"Bishop" Pierre Marie Mvondo -  An African Thuc bishop from Cameroon, there is a video clip that shows the processional before a Tridentine Rite Mass with lots of inculturation favored by Thuc in his autobiography.  Here's a homily about Thuc that practically canonizes him. 


“‘Deacon’ William Kamm (“the Little Pebble”) - Australian apocalyptic cult leader and convicted sex offender who says God will soon make him Pope. Made a ‘deacon’ by  Thuc-line ‘Bishop’ Malcolm Broussard. 


“In the following Daily Mail link note that there is an eight-minute video on him worth watching:   

“‘Pope’ Athanasius I (Bryan Richard Clayton) - Ex-CMRI seminarian, conditionally consecrated by Thuc ‘Bishop’ Patrick Taylor (through the Datessen branch)  


“‘Bishop’ Bernadette Meck - Yes, a Thuc-line woman ‘bishop’ – [possibly the result of Archbishop Thuc making good on] his V-2 plea for women in ‘sacred functions.’  Like many Old Catholics, she has multiple lines of succession, one of which comes from ‘Archbishop’ Peter Paul Brennan, who also had multiple lines, including Thuc (see linked below: “Other Apostolic Lines acquired through P.P. Brennan”). 


“‘Father’ Joseph Di Mambro - Leader of the occult/neo-gnostic/millenarian/murder-suicide cult, the Order of the Temple, who with Lu Jouret, another leader, and a third member was ordained by Thuc-line ‘Bishop’ Jean Laborie. A photo atop the linked article shows Di Mambro teaching his young daughter (she would die along with him in one of the cult's immolations) how to be a ‘mystical priestess’:  The book chapter I’ve linked here only makes reference to the 1984 Jouret ordination, however, I’ve seen Di Mambro mentioned as a Laborie ordination elsewhere.” (End of Comments by Mr. John Weiskittel.)


For his part, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre added to the confusion by consecrating four bishops without an apostolic mandate even while recognizing Karol Wojtyla as “Pope” John Paul II.  Neither Thuc nor Lefebvre, nor any of their episcopal descendants have seemed to be concerned about the still effective papal legislation of Pope Pius XII which was issued on 9 April 1951, with the title: “Consecrating Bishop Not Nominated or Expressly Confirmed by the Holy See,” AAS 43-217:


A Bishop, of whatsoever rite of dignity, who consecrates to the Episcopacy anyone who is neither appointed nor expressly confirmed by the Holy See, and the person who receives the consecration, even though they were coerced by grave fear (Canon 2229, §3, 3º), incur ipso facto an excommunication most especially reserved to the Holy See …”


To the above alphabet-abbreviated-named groups listed above, we can also add the following:


The Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen, better known as CMRI, was founded in the late 1960s by Mr. Frances Schuckardt, who soon thereafter accepted ordination and consecration from the schismatic, Old Catholic Canadian bishop, Daniel Q. Brown.  Years after Schuckardt’s expulsion from the group for allegedly propositioning several altar boys, the CMRI ultimately centered around Mark Pivarunas as its new bishop, who was consecrated by Moises Carmona, thereby grafting the CMRI onto the dubious Thuc line.  Pivarunas has recently announced the opening of a new CMRI center in Kingwood, Texas, for the expressed purpose of taking over from Father Campbell the spiritual care of Saint Jude’s congregation, and he has begun contacting through his local agent, Father Francis Miller, various members of Saint Jude’s via e-mail, obviously supplied to him by a current or former participant of the Masses at Saint Jude Shrine, in Stafford, Texas. 


None of these groups are in the least bit interested in restoring hierarchical order within the occupied visible structures of the true Church, starting with the restoration of a true Pope to the Chair of Peter, but operate lawlessly to perpetuate their own empires.  Not a single one of these groups has delegated confessors who can absolve the faithful from their sins, except in danger of death, and many of these organizations no longer even have unquestionably valid priests, since virtually all of the FSSP clergy receive their priestly orders from already-mentioned invalid novus ordo bishops, and the SSPX has for some time been admitting novus ordo priests into their ranks without benefit of conditional ordination.  More and more, the “trad” and “semi-trad” clergy are beginning to resemble their lawless novus ordo counterparts.  Indeed, this may have been foretold by the holy German nun and mystic, Venerable Anna Catherine Emmerick, who said in 1820: 


“I saw a strange church being built against every rule … No angels were supervising the building operations. In that church, nothing came from high above … There was only division and chaos.  It is probably a church of human creation, following the latest fashion as well as the new heterodox church in Rome, which seems to be of the same kind.” (Yves Dupont, “Catholic Prophecy; The Coming Chastisement,” 1970, Tan Books, page 61)


This brief summary of what today passes “traditional” Catholic associations of priests and bishops represents only the “tip of the iceberg” of what could be included in such a report.  Those who are interested in looking at far more detailed accounts on this subject, written by other researchers whose works have been sent to me, are welcome to contact me to request that information, at


There are many young, sincere novus ordo clergymen who were deceived by the conciliar church when they were conferred with invalid priestly orders.  Many of them want to be true Catholic priests and offer the true Mass exclusively, and therefore, are now seeking conditional ordination.  The solution for their dilemma may be found by their requesting the assistance of the still legitimate Eastern-rite Uniate Catholic Bishops who have not become modernists, and have not allowed the formulas for their Sacraments to become adulterated.  These bishops may well be able to provide conditional ordination and juridical delegation to those awakened novus ordo clergy, in order that they would become valid Catholic priests, possessing every prerogative of that noble office.  But how this might be done is a subject for another, future report.   


In the meantime, Saint Jude’s, which was consecrated in 1949, by the bishop of the Diocese of Galveston, Texas, Most Reverend Christopher Byrne, will remain as it has been for almost 50 years, an outpost of the remnant Catholic Church, served by true Catholic priests, more of whom, we hope and pray, may be joining us soon.


Sincerely yours in Christ the King,


Gary Giuffré