No priest or religious is ever an independent agent. Those lay people who like to use that term usually want to make themselves feel better for having received the sacraments illegally. It sounds nicer to say “an independent priest” than “a rogue priest, renegade priest, headless priest, runaway priest, suspended priest.”
The law requires the every clergyman and religious have an Ordinary. This can be the bishop of the diocese or the religious superior. No one may act independently of his Ordinary. Hence,you can’t be an independent priest, because you’re not an independent agent. You depend on the Ordinary to grant you faculties.
A priest who strikes out on his own is automatically suspended. He is not excommunicated unless he does something stupid like attempt marriage. But he is suspended. His absolution is invalid. His marriages are invalid.
The other way to get suspended is to violate a law. Your superior or your bishop can suspend you. Some laws carry an automatic suspension. Abandoning your post is one of them. You can’t just walk.
This insistance on calling these men “independent” priests when the Church clearly states that they cannot self govern, is unreasonable. A truly independent priest should be able to perform all of his priestly functions without needing a head. That’s why the Latin uses acephalus (without a head).
This does not apply to extern priests. An extern priest is one who does not live in his diocese or with his religious community. He lives in someone else’s jurisdiction because he’s going to school or he retired in Florida after serving in NYC for 50 years. He remains a priest of the Archdiocese of NY. He does not lose his faculties. When he arrives at Disney for his retirement, he applies to Bishop Noonan, the Bishop of Orlando, for faculties. He is granted faculties until such time as he leaves. If he goes back to NY for more than a month and returns to his retirement home in Orlando, he must request faculties again from the host bishop. He is called an extern priest, because he doesn’t belong to this diocese. He is not independent. He has a bishop in his home diocese. If he’s a religious, he has a superior.
If you were the bishop and i were your priest and I walked, I would lose my faculties. But I continue to depend on you. Only you can give me faculties. If I lose my faculties by breaking the law, not bishop and no religious superior can grant me faculties except my own. There is the relationship of dependence.
You can call him an isolated priest, a suspended priest, a headless priest,a renegade, etc, but not independent as long as he depends on you for faculties.
By the way, those priest who went rogue to celebrate the Tridentine Mass did not have to go that route. There is not such thing as having to commit a sin in order to do a good thing. If the rule at the time was not to celebrate it, then you obey. You don’t justify yourself by saying, I have to disobey in order to do something good.
The fact that Pope Benedict came out and said that the Tridentine Mass was never abrogated does not absolve those who went rogue. At the time that they made the choice, they believed that they were breaking a rule and they did it with full knowledge and full consent. They did commit a grave act of disobedience and their suspension was valid, even though there was a misunderstanding about the status of the Tridentine Mass.
You always go with the rules until they are proven no longer necessary. You can only disobey a rule that commands you to sin.
Br. JR, FFV