I’m studying abroad in a place where I can only go to the SSPX for the sacraments. Is this ok?
Is she Catholic?
Don’t take this to the bank, but my understanding is that you may go to Mass at an SSPX chapel if there is no Mass in communion with Rome available to you. However, SSPX priests cannot offer valid confession/absolution unless you are in danger of death; so, you “can” go, but it won’t have any sacramental effect and you will not be absolved of whatever sins you confess. I’m not sure about their other sacraments, though if forced to take a guess I would suspect that their baptisms are valid but illicit (hopefully you won’t be having any kids over there).
A valid SSPX Mass is far better than going to no Mass. I would just be wary not to buy into a schismatic mindset and you should be fine. Hopefully one day this will all be a moot issue.
If it’s “physically or morally impossible” for you to approach a Catholic priest (canon 844) you can receive Communion, go to confession, and be anointed by an SSPX priest. The operative word though is “impossible” so keep in mind that this is a very high standard.
If it’s physically or morally impossible for you to attend a Catholic Mass, then the obligation to attend Mass does not apply to you. Going to an SSPX Mass (whether by necessity or by choice) doesn’t fulfill the Sunday obligation, even though it is a valid Mass.
What I’m having a hard time imagining is how one could be in a place where there is an SSPX priest, but no Catholic priest. Unless you’re going somewhere very remote, it seems a bit unlikely. If you feel comfortable sharing the details, please do.
Short answer is yes, if there are no “regular” masses available.
I know I’m going to start an argument, but here it goes.
Starting by defining some terms:
**Invalid **- The sacrament never happened. Example: If I tried to offer mass, it would be invalid. (I’m not a priest) Example: If a priest tried to offer mass with a pizza, it’d be invalid.
Illicit - Not Lawfull (canonical “illegal”). Example: If a priest offered mass in a clown suit, BUT still saying the correct words, with the correct intentions. (The suit is obviously wrong, but it dosen’t invalidate the mass.
All SSPX sacraments are illicit, assuming they do everything correct (as with any non-SSPX sacraments), the are valid. They have valid ordinations, (from old books albet) but the time frame of the books make no difference, because they were once “the books”. Time can not make a certain set of prayers not valid if they once were.
In short, it’s valid (Jesus is in their tabernacle, and the do get their sins fogiven in the confessional, etc…), but keep your distance when possible.
You’re right that there is a distinction between validity and liceity; however, my understanding is that the SSPX’s confessions are held to be invalid, unless in extremis. FWIW, the SSPX have some highly convoluted argument, based on the bad-faith attempt to create and exploit a loophole in canon law, for why their confessions should be valid, but to my knowledge the Church has rejected any such arguments.
Also, although their Masses are valid, merely saying “Hey, the Mass is valid!” does not equate to “You might as well you go, it’s just like Mass at a legitimate Catholic church.” (You didn’t say this, but some draw that erroneous conclusion.) As we know, the Eastern Orthodox and some Old Catholics have valid Masses, but these do not fulfill the Sunday obligation and no one should be confused into thinking that these groups are somehow “actually” Roman Catholic just because they have valid Masses.
Confession can be a tricky issue.
Because absolution is a juridic act of the Church, in order for the Sacrament of Confession/Reconciliation to be valid the priest must have faculties from the Church–those faculties are normally granted by the priest’s own bishop. Remember that absolution reconciles one to the Church (and includes forgiveness)–therefore, unless the priest has the authority to act in the name of the Church, it cannot be valid.
The Church Herself grants faculties to priests through the universal canon law in certain cases, when they otherwise do not have them. Usually we see this in “danger of death” In that case, any validly ordained priest (literally “any”) is given the faculties to absolve. If it’s a situation of “it’s impossible to approach a Catholic priest” then the faculties are granted (again by the law itself) to any priest who is part of a church which has valid orders. This later case is not quite the same thing as any priest.
By virtue of ordination, a priest has the power to forgive sins, but in order to validly absolve from sins he must also have faculties (ie jurisdiction). This is unlike consecrating the Eucharist–which is always valid, but might be illicit. No faculties means that absolution can’t be valid.