Statement from the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge on the Consecration of Father Gerardo Zendejas, Member of an Independent Church



On May 11, 2017, at the St. Athanasius church in Vienna, Virginia, Bishops Richard Williamson, Jean-Michel Faure and Tomas de Aquino will consecrate Father Gerardo Zendejas a bishop of a schismatic community, that is, a group that refuses to submit to the ecclesiastical authority of the Roman Pontiff.

St. Athanasius is not a church in communion with the Roman Catholic Church or the Diocese of Arlington, and its clergy do not lawfully celebrate the sacraments in the Diocese of Arlington. As the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Arlington, I cannot and will not recommend or condone attendance at St. Athanasius at any time for anyone in communion with the Roman Pontiff and the Roman Catholic Church.

Bishop Williamson was expelled from the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) in 2012. Since that time he has affiliated himself with an independent church formed by groups around the country. While authoritative information about these groups is incomplete, it appears that they are currently in schism from the Catholic Church, refusing to submit to the authority of Pope Francis, the legitimately elected and governing Successor of Saint Peter. Under church law, “schism” refers to a refusal to submit to the Pope or a withdrawal from communion with the members of the Church subject to him (Canon 751).

The illicit consecration of a bishop is an act of grave disobedience, a wounding of the unity of the Church and a source of serious scandal. Canon law states, “A bishop who consecrates someone a bishop without a pontifical mandate and the person who receives the consecration from him incur a latae sententiae [that is, automatic] excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See” (Canon 1382). Since Bishop Williamson previously consecrated Bishop Faure and Bishop Tomas without a mandate from the Holy See, these three bishops who plan to participate in the consecration scheduled to take place on May 11 have each already incurred excommunications under Canon 1382.

Please join me in praying that all those involved in this illicit episcopal consecration may, through Our Lady’s intercession, return to full unity with the Catholic Church.