Can SSPX priests absolve you of sins?

A most interesting post over at Fr. Z’s site:

 

From this we see that priests must have permission of the Church to absolve sins.  The Church, by the way, gets to determine how the sacraments are administered.  The SSPX does not get to decide how sacraments are administered.

-snip-

Also, we have to consider culpable and inculpable ignorance.  Catholics ought to inform themselves about their Faith.  To what extent is a matter for debate.  But once you walk through the door of exploring your Faith even to the point of learning about the law and faculties that priests have, I think you are on the hook.  You don’t have to wonder ever about priests at the local parish or official chapel established by the local diocese.  Even Father “Just call me ‘Bob’” has faculties, even though he is a heretic.

That said, if a person has been informed that SSPX priests do not have faculties to receive sacramental confessions, and goes to them anyway, a huge problem is introduced.  Those priests don’t – in normal circumstances – have faculties.  Period.  Some people say they have “emergency powers”.  The Church does not agree.  They don’t have faculties.

It seems to me that if a person knows that the priest does NOT have faculties, and he goes to him anyway, then he knows that he is simulating a sacrament.  That would be a sin.

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37 Responses to Can SSPX priests absolve you of sins?

  1. François-Robert Laliberté Fournier says:

    I don’t agree whith that. The chamcellor of my diocesesaid to me, taht all there sacrements are valid. Can we say valid but illicit? Not sure. If by a circontance, you receive an absolution by a priest of SSPX, you are absolved Saying it a sin to go to confession to a priest of SSPX, after their bishops are no more excuminated, sacrement of confession is valid.

    • William Tighe says:

      Then you don’t agree with the Canon Law of the Catholic Church. Priests per se don’t have the authority to absolve sins, unless they have “faculties” from their bishop (a bishop in communion with the Pope) to do so.

      • Rev22:17 says:

        Professor,

        You wrote: Then you don’t agree with the Canon Law of the Catholic Church. Priests per se don’t have the authority to absolve sins, unless they have “faculties” from their bishop (a bishop in communion with the Pope) to do so.

        In most dioceses, the diocesan bishop grants general faculties to hear confessions upon ordination or incardination of each presbyter. Once granted, the presbyter may exercise that faculty anywhere in the world unless another diocean bishop suspends it within his diocese. Note that he must have a grave reason for doing so.

        Note, also, that all of this is just as true of faculties to celebrate mass.

        Norm.

      • Dale says:

        Dr Tighe, hence, the Byzantine and Oriental Orthodox Churches, since their faculties are not given by bishops in communion with the Pope would mean that they also, as well as the Society, do not have the authority to absolve sins. This sounds very close to Donatism. It would appear that Roman Catholic canon law is very much in contradiction to the two lung blather that has become so popular amongst certain Roman Catholics recently.

      • Ioannes says:

        Dale, the Two Lungs sentiment is problematic because it assumes communion before any actual unity has occurred. Not two lungs, regardless of its beauty and poetic quality, for lungs alone do not make a body. There can only be One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church- the Mystical Body of Christ, United and a Real Organism.

        I thought the “Two Lungs” thing was a good idea, but it disregards the real problem of Papal Primacy/Supremacy so I abandoned that line of thought.

        Still, we accept that due to the preservation of Apostolic Succcession, the sacraments done by the SSPX and the Orthodox/Oriental churches are valid.

        In Donatism, the validity of the sacraments depended on the personal holiness of the minister, but we have refuted that notion because of the independent nature and exhaustive Sovereignty of God who freely gives man His Grace.. (The entire issue of Donatus’ teaching occurred because of the “Traditores” or the ones who “handed over” the holy things to the Romans during the time of persecution- people wondered what to make of the priests who continued to offer Mass and absolve sins after having done such things.)

        I admit, I am scandalized by things done by the likes Archbishop Milingo and Cardinal Mahoney, but I have faith that the Holy Spirit is truly with the sacraments they administer. I believe that God always actively find ways to save us!

      • William Tighe says:

        Dale, there is a whole body of canon-law literature (which I’ve never read, but long ago read about) from the 1930s onwards, Latin Catholic canon law literature, I mean, about the “jurisdictional status” of “schismatic” (i.e., Orthodox) bishops, and about various theories concerning a papal “tacit” or “customary” recognition or ascription of jurisdiction to them.

      • Dale says:

        Yes Dr Tighe, the situation is indeed “interesting.” But if Rome accepts the “‘jurisdictional status’ of ‘schismatic’ (i.e., Orthodox) bishops, and […] papal ‘tacit’ or ‘customary’ recognition or ascription of jurisdiction to them [The Orthodox]” it would seem that this would also include the Society as well and their Sacraments. This is especially true when one also includes the recent attempts to forge a closer relationship with the PNCC, which is simply an older schism than the Society.

    • Don Henri says:

      Pas exactement (je crois que vous comprenez mieux le français, M. le diacre). La confession est en fait un Sacrement qui appartient à l’Evêque diocésain, de par sa relation spirituelle à son diocèse et aux gens qui le composent. Si les prêtres diocésains peuvent confesser, ce n’est que par délégation de l’Evêque diocésain. D’ailleurs, s’ils quittent un diocèse et se trouvent dans un autre, ils doivent alors demander les pouvoirs à l’Evêque de ce diocèse pour confesser validement. Les prêtres FSSPX n’ayant pas cette délégation nécessaire à la validité du Sacrement de la confession, leurs confessions ne sont pas valides. Et les trois Evêques de la FSSPX n’étant pas diocésains, ils ne peuvent leur déléguer ce pouvoir. Je sais toutefois qu’un certain nombre d’Evêques soucieux par dessus tout du bien spirituel des ouailles de la FSSPX donnent les pouvoirs pour confesser aux prêtres FSSPX résidants dans leurs diocèses.
      De façon intéressante, il en va de même pour le Sacrement du mariage: le prêtre FSSPX n’étant pas le témoin principal prévu par le droit canon, qui doit être le curé territorial ou une prêtre délégué par lui. C’est depuis le concile de Trente que ces considérations rendent le mariage nul en ce qui concerne les époux Catholiques. Et donc les tribunaux ecclésiastiques (en tout cas en France) annulent systématiquement tous les mariages où un prêtre de la FSSPX a officié.
      Restent valides en tout état de cause leurs baptêmes, leurs eucharisties, leurs confirmations, et leurs ordinations.

      + pax et bonum

      • François-Robert Laliberté Fournier says:

        Merci Dom Henri de votre comentaire. Mais au Québec, les prêtres,en tout cas ce que j,ai vu dans les sanctuaires, peuvent confesser partout; je sais qu’avant 1965 ils étaient restraints à leur diocèse. Un jour je dus aller passer une certain temps enAlaska. La première église catholique était à 240 milles de la résidence où je vivais. Après entente avec mon ordinaire, j’allais à la Divine Liturgie à l’Église Orthodoxe de la petite ville où je résidais. J’avais auparavent rencontré le prêtre qui relevait de l’Église Ortodox en Amérique, plus ouvert que les autres juridictions. Tous leurs sacrement sont valides, et j’étais admis à la communion sacrementelle, et je n’aurais pas hésité d’aller me confesser à ce prêtre. Il y avait dans cette ville aussi un église Épiscopalienne, mais j’y aurais été prié sans participer aux sacrements sachant qu’ils étaient invalides, sans vouloir blesser personne. Je crois qu,une personne ayant un besoin urgent de se dconfesser, et qu’il y a à 7km de chez-elle trois prêtres de la SSPX, qui sont disponibles, Notre Dieu de Miserricorde Infinie doit considérer comme valide cette confession et cette absolution, à moins que vous trouviez que mon Ordinaire ou moi-même sommes trop libéral. Je vous remercie de m’avoir répondu en français, et j’aimerais connaître votre opinion sur ce que j’ai vécu en Alaska.

      • Don Henri says:

        Ce qui s’est passé en Alaska me parait conforme aux règles. L’Eglise autorise le recours aux sacrements des Eglises Orthodoxes en cas d’impossibilité de recourir à ceux d’un prêtre Catholique. Par exemple, j’ai entendu parler d’un prêtre russe pendant le communisme qui bien qu’orthodoxe célébrant la Messe Tridentine pour les catholiques de la région.
        En cas de nécessité, par exemple la mort ou la maladie, tout prêtre peut confesser, même par exemple un prêtre qui aurait été laïciser. Je ne suis pas sûr que le simple fait que le prêtre FSSPX soit plus commode à atteindre qu’un prêtre en règle soit un fondement suffisant pour déclencher un état de nécessité grave.
        Le droit canon est là pour nous assurer avec certitude de l’efficacité du Sacrement. Cela ne veut pas dire que l’Esprit Saint n’opère pas dans les situations illicites, mais hors des règles de l’Eglise on prend toujours un risque. Donc il vaut mieux être prudent et respecter toujours les règles. Car rien de plus gênant que l’incertitude, regardez ce que ça a donné par exemple en ce qui concerne la question des ordinations Anglicanes.
        Je ne suis pas canoniste, mais étant juriste de droit français et de common law, le droit canon me parait un instrument extrêmement efficace pour maintenir l’ordre sacramentel et hiérarchique dans l’Eglise.

        + pax et bonum

      • Rev22:17 says:

        Don et François-Robert,

        Le canon 844 du <<Codex Juris Canonici>> (<>) en français…

        Can. 844 – § 1. Les ministres catholiques administrent licitement les sacrements aux seuls fidèles catholiques qui, de même, les reçoivent licitement des seuls ministres catholiques, restant sauves les dispositions des §§ 2, 3 et 4 du présent canon et du can. 861, § 2.

        § 2. Chaque fois que la nécessité l’exige ou qu’une vraie utilité spirituelle s’en fait sentir, et à condition d’éviter tout danger d’erreur ou d’indifférentisme, il est permis aux fidèles qui se trouvent dans l’impossibilité physique ou morale d’avoir recours à un ministre catholique, de recevoir les sacrements de pénitence, d’Eucharistie et d’onction des malades de ministres non catholiques, dans l’Église desquels ces sacrements sont valides.

        § 3. Les ministres catholiques administrent licitement les sacrements de pénitence, d’Eucharistie et d’onction des malades aux membres des Églises orientales qui n’ont pas la pleine communion avec l’Église catholique, s’ils le demandent de leur plein gré et s’ils sont dûment disposés; ceci vaut aussi bien pour les membres d’autres Églises qui, au jugement du Siège Apostolique, se trouvent pour ce qui concerne les sacrements dans la même condition que les Églises orientales susdites.

        § 4. En cas de danger de mort ou si, au jugement de l’Évêque diocésain ou de la conférence des Évêques, une autre grave nécessité se fait pressante, les ministres catholiques peuvent administrer licitement ces mêmes sacrements aussi aux autres chrétiens qui n’ont pas la pleine communion avec l’Église catholique, lorsqu’ils ne peuvent pas avoir recours à un ministre de leur communauté et qu’ils le demandent de leur plein gré, pourvu qu’ils manifestent la foi catholique sur ces sacrements et qu’ils soient dûment disposés.

        § 5. Dans les cas dont il s’agit aux §§ 2, 3 et 4, l’Évêque diocésain ou la conférence des Évêques ne porteront pas de règles générales sans avoir consulté l’autorité compétente, au moins locale, de l’Église ou de la communauté non catholique concernée.

        Norm.

      • Dale says:

        François-Robert, it is indeed rather refreshing to see that, at least in Alaska, the Orthodox are taking a more pastoral attitude towards a limited form of inter-communion caused by necessity.

  2. Ioannes says:

    Archbishop Lefebvre was a validly ordained and consecrated bishop, and he made valid ordinations of priests, but they are illicit.

    This reminded me of a time when my parents went to an SSPX chapel, and they thought it was a normal, approved place in good standing with Rome. I informed them and they were shocked that there were rebellious traditionalists. “They’re Protestants, then,” they said. “It doesn’t matter if they look Catholic, if they’re rebellious against the Pope, no Catholic should go there.”

    I’d also think that, like with the Orthodox, exceptions can be made in incredibly rare and extraordinary circumstance. (And by “Extraordinary”, it doesn’t mean in the same way as people now think about “Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion”)

    • Stephen M says:

      I think that the “valid but illicit” argument can be rephrased as “can, but shouldn’t”. The concept of someone being a valid bishop but without the faculty to ordain (or a valid priest without the faculty to serve Mass) is part of Western thought. Your attitude (and that of your parents) seems to be closer to the Eastern idea which doesn’t really distinguish between “invalid” and “illicit”. Or to put it another way: in Western thought, you can be a validly consecrated bishop but, at the same time, also inhibited from performing sacerdotal acts because of, for example, being in a state of schism. Whereas in Eastern thought, episcopal ministry can only be exercised within the Church, so if you’re in a state of formal schism, you’re simply not a bishop.

      I’m making no observation about whether one is objectively true and the other false, or whether one is objectively “better” than the other, I’m just outlining a fundamental difference of thought.

      • Don Henri says:

        We are shifting toward a position similar to the one of the Orthodox Churches: look at the married “bishops” ordained by cardinal Milingo. The congregation for clergy said their orders are null and void because they were consecrated outside of the Church. It is a major shift in our theology of orders, and I agree with it. It’s really too easy that a few vagans say “hocus pocus” laying hands on some guy and tadaa! here’s a bishop!

        + pax et bonum

      • Ioannes says:

        I’m a bit confused here, if you understood me, Stephen. You say that “Valid but illicit” is a part of Western thought, and I subscribe to that, because it makes sense to me. I suppose my parents do as well, or else they’d still go to the SSPX chapel- if there’s no distinction between sacraments and ordinations being licit or valid.

        But you say our attitude is closer to the Eastern Idea, which doesn’t distinguish between “invalid” or “illicit”. How do you know if our attitude is closer to the Eastern idea?

        If we didn’t care much about the distinction between “Valid” and “Licit” we probably would have kept coming to that chapel. In fact, we’d probably go to any denominational church we wanted. That would be a more liberal attitude, though.

        We are law-abiding Catholics, and when there is law involved, there would have to be a sort of exclusion between how the Church governs herself, and how God freely dispenses His Grace to us. (God being Perfect, and we being imperfect, there’d have to be a distinction between the operation of two different things, right?)

        But we also believe that the Pope’s authority is crucial, so the simple fact that the SSPX are disobedient to the Pope and the rest of the Church was enough reason to not go to the SSPX chapel. I’d think that a bishop who suddenly joins the SSPX is still a bishop, but a rogue bishop, someone who ought to be put in an ecclesiastical prison because they might make illicit, though valid, ordinations and establish a sort of Catholic analogue of how the Orthodox are- not in communion, but with valid sacraments and orders,

        Now, I’m no canon lawyer, but I have a suspicion that from the Roman Catholic side, Orthodox bishops are valid, and their sacraments are valid, but it is illegal for any Catholics to commune there- and from the Orthodox side, Roman Catholic bishops aren’t bishops at all, due to the Pope’s role in Catholicism and 1054 and all that jazz.

        So, my attitude, with my parents (who do not care much about ecclesiology and everything we talk about here and just want to go to church) is that… we go to where we’re lawfully allowed to go, and leave the judgement of validity to good bishops and other qualified judges who can speak with authority in such matters. (Within the Catholic Church, of course.)

      • Ioannes says:

        Mr. Don Henri-

        (ex)Archbishop Emmanual Milingo is a disgraceful and excommunicated layman and so are the four men he “consecrated”; his actions and associating himself with the cult leader Sun Myung Moon rightly justified his excommunication. -Whether or not he is validly a bishop or licitly a bishop is no longer a question- he is excommunicate and not even a member of the Church.

        He is not a cleric, he is just some man from Zambia who may dress like a cleric and call himself titles, but the fact is he is not.

        In this, I agree with the Orthodox- episcopal ministry can only be exercised within the Church- apostasy makes the “valid but licit” argument a moot point.

        …Oh, I think I just realized what Stephen M meant when he characterizes my attitude as being close to the Eastern idea. I still believe that the mark of the priesthood is permanent, just like how with one’s baptism- you can’t be “unbaptized” the same way one cannot be “unborn”.

        I wonder about two things: 1. The recent assertion that there’s no such thing as “Formal Schism” because of the nature of baptism- and 2.If there’s an analogous “Annulment” idea that corresponds to clergy who “aren’t clergy after all”

      • Stephen M says:

        It might seem harsh to some people, but to my mind it solves exactly the problem you describe. That’s not to say that it doesn’t cause others – I don’t know. I’m only very, very new to Orthodoxy, and make no claim to know anything. This particular issue is one which will never affect me, so I can treat it like a thought experiment.

      • Stephen M says:

        Ioannes: …Oh, I think I just realized what Stephen M meant when he characterizes my attitude as being close to the Eastern idea. I still believe that the mark of the priesthood is permanent, just like how with one’s baptism- you can’t be “unbaptized” the same way one cannot be “unborn”.

        Perhaps I could have explained myself more clearly, but yes you have grasped what I was trying to say.

        There is a continuum of thought (as I understand it) in the Orthodox understanding of the nature of Holy Orders. There are bishops who hold that schism and/or excommunication extinguishes the character of ordination, and should a priest be excommunicated and then reconciled, he will be received back as a layman who may or (more likely) may not then be re-ordained. Then there are bishops who take the position that ordination is indelible, but the grace it confers can only be exercised within the Church. These would hold that an excommunicated-and-reconciled priest would be received back as a priest.

        Incidentally, in Orthodoxy, the only sacrament that can be administered (in grave circumstances) by anyone is the sacrament of Baptism. When a priest is ordained he has absolutely no right to serve any other of the other sacraments. Of course, a blessing to serve Divine Liturgy is usually granted immediately (otherwise what would be the point of the ordination?). Blessings to Chrismate, solemnise matrimony, etc, are given over a period of time, as the need arises, and as the priest shows himself to be worthy and capable of serving them. The blessing to hear confessions is usually only given several years after ordination. I believe that this is the same as in the Eastern Catholic Churches, and I thought it was also the case in the Roman Catholic Church, but I may be wrong.

      • Rev22:17 says:

        Ioannes,

        You wrote: (ex)Archbishop Emmanual Milingo is a disgraceful and excommunicated layman and so are the four men he “consecrated”; his actions and associating himself with the cult leader Sun Myung Moon rightly justified his excommunication. -Whether or not he is validly a bishop or licitly a bishop is no longer a question- he is excommunicate and not even a member of the Church.

        Theologically, the sacraments that impart character are permanent and indellible. Thus, an individual who has received episcopal ordination and subsequently entered into a state of schism, excommunication, interdict, suspension, or laicization can ordain validly, even though such ordinations are illicit. Thus, the Catholic Church recognizes the ordinations of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) as valid, and clergy who leave the SSPX to come into, or back into, the full communion of the Catholic Church are “regularized” without another ordination.

        The issue with ordinations conducted by former Archbishop Milingo, however, lies in his apparent state of apostasy — that is, abandonment of Christian faith — which would create a material defect of intent that renders the ordinations sacramentally invalid.

        You wrote: I wonder about two things: 1. The recent assertion that there’s no such thing as “Formal Schism” because of the nature of baptism- and 2.If there’s an analogous “Annulment” idea that corresponds to clergy who “aren’t clergy after all”

        A schism is the creation of a separate ecclesiastical structure or the severance of full communion between two ecclesiastical structures. Thus, the SSPX is currently in a state of schism.

        And yes, Canons 1708-1712 of the Codex Juris Canonici provide a juricic process to review the validity of sacred orders, but the judgement of such cases is reserved to the apostolic see. The motu proprio Quaerit semper of 30 August 2011 made a special office within the Roman Rota the tribunal of first instance for such cases. This office also processes petitions for dispensations from unconsummated marriages.

        That said, don’t forget that one must show that a defect existed at the time of ordination to declare that an ordination is null, just as a defect must have existed at the time of a wedding to declare that a marriage is null. If a cleric goes insane, senile, or apostate after his own ordination, that is not sufficient.

        Norm.

      • Ioannes says:

        Norm, I made a mistake- I was thinking of “Formal Defections” from the Church when writing about Milingo. “actus formalis defectionis ab Ecclesia catholica”-

        And you have summed it up by the answer: “Invalid due to defect of intent”
        I would have initially pegged the invalidity of Milingo’s ordinations due to his excommunication (Which I believe only the Pope can sign)

        And the basic “Excommunicate = Not a member of the Church, period.” like what Stephen M stated.

        Thanks for clarifying things up.

      • Rev22:17 says:

        Ioannes,

        You wrote: I would have initially pegged the invalidity of Milingo’s ordinations due to his excommunication (Which I believe only the Pope can sign)

        Canonically, there are two types of canonical penalties.

        >> Some canonical penalties occur automatically whenever a member of the church performs the forbidden act or fails to perform the required act. The penalty of excommunication is automatic for offenses such as successful procurement of an abortion, violation of the seal of the confessional, and ordination of bishops without a mandate (on both the ordaining bishops and the ordained bishops). However, the obligation to observe an automatic penalty rests solely on the individual unless a competent ecclesiastical authority declares that the individual has incurred the penalty.

        >> Other canonical penalties, including excommunications, are imposed by competent ecclesiastical authority. In general, the authority must warn the individual that the penalty will be imposed before the act or omission in order to impose such penalties.

        But as to the question of “competent ecclesiasical authority,” a diocesan bishop or other ordinary has full jurisdiction to impose or declare canonical penalties on his subjects — and may do so (1) personally, (2) through a delegate, or (3) through the processes of his diocesan tribunals. With regard to a bishop or other ordinary, however, this authority rests solely in the pope because he is the only higher authority.

        Any bishop ordinarily can absolve a canonical penalty unless the canonical penalty is reserved to the Holy See, but I think that canoncial penalty imposed on a bishop would be reserved to the Holy See by that fact.

        You wrote: And the basic “Excommunicate = Not a member of the Church, period.” like what Stephen M stated.

        Not quite. Rather, the word means “out of communion” — meaning that the person is not allowed to share in sacred acts in any way. A person in a state of excommunication does NOT cease to be a member of the Catholic Church, nor does he or she cease to be subject to ecclesiastical law.

        You wrote: Thanks for clarifying things up.

        You’re welcome!

        Norm.

      • Dale says:

        Stephen stated the following: “Whereas in Eastern thought, episcopal ministry can only be exercised within the Church, so if you’re in a state of formal schism, you’re simply not a bishop.”

        This is very recent development, at least in the Russian Church. Previous to the new ordination rites of the Roman Catholic Church ALL Roman Catholic orders were accepted as valid (and contrary to modern Orthodox theological developments, yes, the Russian Orthodox did make distinctions between valid and invalid orders; those of Rome, the Oriental Orthodox, Old Believers [priested], and Old Catholics were considered valid, whilst those of the Anglicans were not); confirmed Roman Catholic laymen were received through confession and no repeat of the Sacraments were done; priests were also received in their orders from the Roman Catholic Church. The orders of the Old Believers have always been accepted as valid, even though their orders were received via a single bishop; who was outside of the official Church.

    • Rev22:17 says:

      Ioannes,

      You wrote: (And by “Extraordinary”, it doesn’t mean in the same way as people now think about “Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion”)

      This actually opens the proverbial “Pandora’s Box” of the whole question of what is really normative and what is substitutionary, and what happens when that which is substitutionary becomes the most prevalent practice. Here, we must remember that the normative celebration of Sunday is the diocesan bishop’s stational mass in his cathedral church, with full pontifical regalia and ceremonial. The practice of presbyters presiding at masses in the ancient Roman parishes (outlying districts) to accommodate parishionners for whom it would have been inconvenient to go to the cathedral is substitutionary, and so is the practice of presbyters presiding at additional masses in the cathedral to accommodate large numbers of parishionners. Yet somehow many people, clergy included, now perceive these substitutionary practices to be normative.

      This issue obviously raises concern in rural dioceses or North America, where many pastors now have responsibility for perhaps six to eight small parishes located miles apart. In many of these situations, each parish can have Sunday mass perhaps every two or three weeks so a a properly deputed deacon or lay person leads Order of Celebration of Sunday in the Absence of a Priest on the intervening weeks. What happens when numbers of clergy grow even fewer, such that these rural parishes have Sunday masses every four or five weeks and the Order of Celebration of Sunday in the Absence of a Priest becomes their normal routine? And even more problematic, what happens when the deacon or lay person who leads the Order of Celebration of Sunday in the Absence of a Priest prepares and leads that service properly, so it is a very moving service that really nurtures the faith of the people, and the pastor, Fr. Clueless, races through a shoddy celebration of the mass that leaves parishionners hungering for something more, such that the parishionners actually develop a preference for the Order of Celebration of Sunday in the Absence of a Priest?

      Yes, big OUCH!

      Norm.

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  4. Stephen K says:

    When I first read this I was a little taken aback: I thought immediately of the distinction between ‘validity’ and liceity. But then I thought some more. Can something be ‘valid’ if it is not authorised? The distinction is grounded in the idea that lawfulness is not of the essence of the process but a quality. It’s not lawful for me to drive a car without a licence, but if I get in and travel to the next town, I have effectively driven a car. But is the liceity of a sacrament severable from its effectiveness in the same way?

    I think the question is made more difficult if the notion of ex opere operato is insisted upon: this notion suggests that the effectiveness of the sacrament does not depend on any non-essential quality but on the institutional formula itself rightly expressed. This tends to support the idea that a sacrament can be valid even if administered sinfully, or unlawfully.

    Similarly, if the effectiveness of a sacrament depends on the faith or disposition of the recipient, as some might have it, then this too would tend to support the idea that however unofficial a sacrament was, it could still be a vehicle or sign of grace.

    And yet, perhaps part of the validity, i.e. the “strength”, the “health”, the force”, the “effectiveness” of a sacrament does depend on whether it is a sacrament of the living authorising Church. If the latter is thought to be exclusively one or more of the established institutions – rather than to include an upstart sect, say – then no sacraments exist outside the officially approved churches.

    On balance I don’t think this can be right. No-one seriously challenges the validity of baptism or in a non-Catholic church. This is a Christian sacrament. It is not sanctioned, to my best recollection, by Canon Law as such, but it is effective. Why should it not apply to the others? The difficulty always comes down to deciding where and what is the Church.

    I do not think liceity cannot be part of validity, but it seems that to confine sacramental validity to those explicitly authorised by a certain class of bishop under a church-specific rule is to dismiss whole swathes of Christians and confine the operation of the grace of God. How audacious can theology and ecclesiology be? However much I am repelled by the SSPX view of themselves as the guardians of true Catholicism, I think I’d personally have no problem regarding the sacramental ministry of the SSPX priests as valid.

    • Ioannes says:

      On one hand, while we can’t say “Everyone is saved” we also can’t say “God never tried”- God gives His Grace freely and cannot be bound even by the Pope- the Holy Spirit will not allow that- But we’re not Calvinists nor Jansenists who insist that some are predestined for Hell and the “elect” are predestined for Heaven, or that God will never forgive a majority of us… But it doesn’t mean all of us will automatically go to Heaven just because of Baptism, despite future mortal sins.

      I’d venture to guess there are other soteriological factors which would make the issue of validity vs. licitness small in comparison. And then, there is the danger of legalism. (Which many, many, many protestants and Orthodox throw at the face Catholics.)

      This is why the Pope is necessary. A deadlocked situation cannot happen when there is a last word in the matter.

  5. Rev22:17 says:

    Deborah,

    From your quotation: From this we see that priests must have permission of the Church to absolve sins. The Church, by the way, gets to determine how the sacraments are administered. The SSPX does not get to decide how sacraments are administered.

    The issue here is the distinction between validity and liceity of the celebration of a sacrament. It normally is not licit for a presbyter who does not hold faculties granted by his own diocesan bishop to celebrate the sacraments, but such celebrations of the sacraments are normally considered to be valid so long as (1) the celebration follows a valid liturgical order, (2) the intent to celebrate the sacrament is clear, and (3) the minister has received valid ordination to the order that confers the sacramental power to effect the sacrament. The Catholic Church regards the celebration of all sacraments other than baptism and marriage in Protestant denominations and in the Anglican Communion to be invalid because the clergy of those denominations never received valid ordination to the sacrament holy orders, and thus lack the sacramental power to give effect to the sacraments even if they now use liturgical orders that are valid and intend to effect the sacrament. Note, however, that the provisions pertaining to liceity are not without exception. It is in fact licit for a suspended or laicized presbyter to celebrate the sacraments for the benefit of one who is in extremis (that is, one whose death is reasonably believed to be imminent) if a presbyter with valid faculties is not available.

    The situation of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) is materially different from that of Anglican and Protestant bodies because its clergy (1) posess valid sacramental orders, (2) use liturgical orders that are clearly valid, and (3) clearly intend to effect the respective sacraments. Since the SSPX remains in a state of schism, neither the Codex Juris Canonici (Code of Canon Law), which is basically a constitution for the Roman Catholic Church, nor the Codex Canonum Ecclesiarum Orientalium (Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches), which have similar effect for the sui juris ritual churches, govern either the SSPX or its members. Rather, so long as the SSPX remains in a state of schism, only the provisions of its constitution and law govern the celebration of the sacraments by its clergy. Of course, the Codex Juris Canonici and the Codex Canonum Ecclesiarum Orientalium most assuredly do govern the reception of sacraments from non-Catholic ministers, including those of the SSPX, respectively by members of the Catholic Church and the sui juris ritual churches. In this regard, the provisions of the Codex Juris Canonici and the Codex Canonum Occlesiarum Orientalium are substantially similar; the former provides the following.

    Can. 844 §1. Catholic ministers administer the sacraments licitly to Catholic members of the Christian faithful alone, who likewise receive them licitly from Catholic ministers alone, without prejudice to the prescripts of §§2, 3, and 4 of this canon, and can. 861, §2.

    §2. Whenever necessity requires it or true spiritual advantage suggests it, and provided that danger of error or of indifferentism is avoided, the Christian faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister are permitted to receive the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers in whose Churches these sacraments are valid.

    §3. Catholic ministers administer the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick licitly to members of Eastern Churches which do not have full communion with the Catholic Church if they seek such on their own accord and are properly disposed. This is also valid for members of other Churches which in the judgment of the Apostolic See are in the same condition in regard to the sacraments as these Eastern Churches.

    §4. If the danger of death is present or if, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops, some other grave necessity urges it, Catholic ministers administer these same sacraments licitly also to other Christians not having full communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed.

    §5. For the cases mentioned in §§2, 3, and 4, the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops is not to issue general norms except after consultation at least with the local competent authority of the interested non-Catholic Church or community.

    So, basically, members of the Catholic Church may receive the sacraments of reconcilliation, holy communion, and anointing of the sick from clergy of the SSPX, a minister of any of the churches of the Orthodox Communion, a minister of any of the ancient oriental churches, or a minister of the Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC) or its affiliates in the Union of Scranton whenever they cannot receive these sacraments from a minister of the Catholic Church.

    From your quotation: It seems to me that if a person knows that the priest does NOT have faculties, and he goes to him anyway, then he knows that he is simulating a sacrament. That would be a sin. (boldface in original)

    No, receiving a sacrament from the clergy of the SSPX does not constitute “simulating a sacrament” because the sacrament itself is valid. However, conscientiously choosing to receive the sacraments from the clergy of the SSPX when one has reasonable access to Catholic ministers would constitute the sin of schism, which carries the automatic (“latae sententiae“) canonical penalty of excommunication.

    Norm.

    • Ioannes says:

      And then we go back to the question of schism vs. heresy- we both agree, there is no difference, though heresies tend to inform schism.

      • Rev22:17 says:

        Ioannes,

        You wrote: And then we go back to the question of schism vs. heresy- we both agree, there is no difference, though heresies tend to inform schism.

        Actually, there is a big difference between heresy and schism.

        >> Heresy is the holding and teaching of doctrine contrary to Christian doctrine. So-called “Liberation Theology” and “Feminist Theology” are among the major heresies of the twentieth century. Many heretics actually remain in the full communion of the Catholic Church, at least until the magisterium imposes or declares canonical penalties.

        >> Schism is the severance of full communion.

        >> The related sin of apostasy is the radical abandonment of Christian faith.

        Although many heretics do fall into schism and many schismatics do fall into heresy, neither dynamic is universal. On the one hand, the Feeneyites of fell into heresy, but not schism, in the 1960’s. On the other hand, the churches of the Orthodox Communion fell into schism, but not heresy, in the Great Schism of 1054 AD.

        Norm.

      • Ioannes says:

        I meant in severity. There’s no difference in severity- I remember this question having been posted before, and I thought there was little difference in severity. “Which is worse, heresy or schism?” with the context of the Anglican Communion.

        Yes, there is a distinction in definitions. But they’re not mutually exclusive.

        I’m still disturbed by the fact that heretics still consider themselves in communion with the Catholic Church. They spread their poison any way they can.

  6. grahame thompson says:

    Francois-Robert

    Avez-vous dja le diacre a Sutton avec Pere Tanguay? J’etais le pretre anglican-il alors. Je suis maintenant un laic catholique.

    Grahame

    • François-Robert Laliberté Fournier says:

      Bonjour,
      Oui je suis le diacre qui accompagnait le Père Tangay. Très heureux de savoir que vous avez complèté votre “Journey Home” dans l’Église Catholique Apostolique Romaine..
      Je demeure à Marieville, et j’exerce mon minstère dans trois paroisses, particulièrement, baptêmes et mariages.

  7. Ioannes says:

    There’s also the issue of “Letter of the Law” vs. “Spirit of the Law’-

    Suppose a Catholic man was in line for confession at your typical Catholic Church and all of a sudden, an Earthquake hit, killing everyone in the church, including the priest, and mortally wounds the man. The SSPX chapel across the street was unaffected, so was the priest in charge.

    I think… that the Church allows for the man to go to the SSPX priest for confession because of his situation. And I think that would be the same if it were an Orthodox church.

    But not when it’s an Episcopalian church with a priestess. Nor when it’s a Satanist who performs euthanasia instead or something.

  8. Peter Karl T. Perkins says:

    Confessions and Marriages require jurisdiction for validity, unlike other Sacraments, but the Church herself has apparently treated S.S.P.X marriages as valid (e.g. in cases of appeals for annulments sent to Rome). If Rome has never ruled that these Sacraments are invalid and has treated them as valid, they are putatively valid. In the 1983 Code, the Church can supply jurisdiction not only (it would seem) in clear cases of necessity but even in cases of apparent or honest error about cases of necessity. The general view taken, therefore, has been that S.S.P.X confessions and marriages are valid. Many in the neo-conservative camp, the group dominiating discussion at Fr. Z’s site, want to find that they are invalid.

    This entire issue might be solved in the near future, and we should wait and see on this. As matters stand, Rome seems ready to declare that the S.S.P.X, as an organisation, has not been regularised owing to the theological error of its leadership. I’m sensing that the Pope will find them to be in a state of error but not one constituting formal heresy. However, a distinction might be made between the organisation as a whole and its clerical members qua clerics. In other words, Rome might perhaps find that its priests validly and licitly administer Sacraments owing to honest error about a case of necessity but that, nonetheless, their organisation is not part of the Church.

    I’m not making an argument here but merely reporting speculations made by others. I am only pointing out for contributors here that the answer to this question might be coming soon. The Holy Father clearly wants to bring the S.S.P.X close to Rome so as to assure unity in the Church, but he is finding it impossible to reach theological agreement with the Society. The question then becomes whether or not anytheological honest disagreement amounts to formal heresy. Perhaps it does; perhaps not. That is ultimately for the Sacred Magisterium to decide. We live in interesting times.

    P.K.T.P.

    P.K.T.P.

    • Rev22:17 says:

      Peter,

      You wrote: As matters stand, Rome seems ready to declare that the S.S.P.X, as an organisation, has not been regularised owing to the theological error of its leadership.

      In fact, the current pope has already declared this in the motu proprio Ecclesiae unitatem of 02 July 2009. Note the last sentence of No. 4 of that document: “However, the doctrinal questions obviously remain and until they are clarified the [Society of St. Pius X] has no canonical status in the Church and its ministers cannot legitimately exercise any ministry.”

      You wrote: I’m sensing that the Pope will find them to be in a state of error but not one constituting formal heresy.

      I don’t see how such a distinction could arise. Heresy is, by definition, error in doctrine and the pope has personally declared the errors to be sufficiently significant to preclude reconcilliation.

      You wrote: However, a distinction might be made between the organisation as a whole and its clerical members qua clerics.

      In fact, that distinction already exists from a functional perspective. Any member of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) who does not adhere to its errors may come into the full communion of the Catholic Church individually.

      Norm.

      • Peter Karl T. Perkins says:

        Norm, please read more and post less. While all heresy is error, not all theological error is heresy, whether formal or even material. Heresty is the denial or doubt of ‘essential teachings’ not all authentic teaching. Consult Canons 750 to 752 (to my recollection: I don’t have the Code in front of me right now). The Pope has already hinted (or it may have been a spokesman) a solution to this about two years ago. No, I no longer have the reference but I keep careful watch over these things and I remember well the suggestion. The Pope may find that they are in error but that this error is not formal heresy & is therefore not sufficient to exclude them from membership in Holy Church. If they are Catholics and if they are priests, they are Catholic priests, but they do not exercise legitimate ministry because they are not incardinated anywhere. Their organisation may not be reconciled until its leaders renounce their (supposed) errors. Knowing this Pope, who is a theologian, I think that he will tell us what their ‘deficiency’ is and will do so in an encyclical, one likely dealing with Tradition as the Rule of Faith. This could mean that their Sacraments are all valid and even licit under the 1983 Code; nevertheless, the Pope could counsel faithful not to receive Sacraments from them on pain of gradually imbibing a schismatic mentality and thereby imperiling their souls; and he could also command that ordinaries in Holy Church not permit them to administer Sacraments at Catholic sacred places controlled by the Church. A problem could arise in France, where the older churches are not controlled by the prelates of the Church. But that’s another issue.

        P.K.T.P.

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