"sacredous simplex"?

I ran across this today on a Catholic history blog:

On 24 July 1904, Solanus Casey was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Sebastian Messmer at the St. Francis of Assisi Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. ** He will be ordained a “sacerdotus simplex” or “Mass Priest” which prevented him from hearing confessions or preaching doctrinal sermons because of a judgment that he had not performed sufficiently well in his seminary classes**. Indeed, Fr. Casey had great difficulty in seminary as most of the classes were in German, with which he was not very familiar.
Throughout his life as a member of the Capuchin Franciscans, Fr. Casey will acquire a reputation for holiness. 20,000 people would visit his coffin just prior to his burial. He was been declared venerable by Pope John Paul II.

More about Fr Solanus and his Cause here.

But I’ve never heard of a priest who can only perform certain sacraments. I mean, if they thought his understanding of theology was so bad he couldn’t hear confessions how could they trust him with the Eucharist?
And can Holy Orders be divided?

It almost seems like they were proactively suspending him for preaching unsound sermons and doing invalid Confessions. :confused:

Does sacredotus simplex still exist?

All a simplex priest is a priest to whom the bishop doesn’t grant the faculties to hear confessions and preach. It isn’t a degree of Holy Orders. It’s a matter of faculties. In the case of S.O.G. Fr. Casey, it was because he had bad marks in theology. He was given those faculties after about five years (according to Fr. Benedict on EWTN) but he chose not to exercise them. If I recall correctly, the Cure of Ars was also ordained a simplex priest.

And the limitation of faculties can apply to any of the three levels of Holy Orders. That was the case with S.O.G. Bishop Sheen. When Bishop Sheen was an auxillary bishop of New York and after a spat between the two men, Cardinal Spellman suspended Bishop Sheen’s faculties to preach. He could say Mass, administer the sacraments, but he couldn’t preach. Imagine that-- the greatest English speaking preacher of the 20th Century not able to preach at Sunday Mass. A neighboring bishop (I can’t remember if it was Newark or Brooklyn) granted Sheen faculties to preach in his diocese and so Sheen was able to preach on Sundays but not in the Archdiocese where he was auxillary.

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If you really think about it, it is a a lot easier to confect the Eucharist than it is to hear confessions.

Especially during the TLM era, the Mass was unchangeable and according to a fixed formula. It never varied. All a priest (assuming he is a valid priest) needs for a valid consecration is valid matter (wheat bread and grape wine), the intent to do what the Church does (turn the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ) and valid words (“This is my blood” and “This is my body.”). In the TLM era, it was pretty much idiot-proof.

Confession requires the priest to act as a judge and counselor. The priest must be able to hear evidence (the person’s confession), judge the guilt (whether the necessary pre-requisites are present…intent, grave matter, etc, and decide if the person is sincere…etc.), decide to grant absolution, assess penance and give guidance. In short, it’s tougher than brain surgery…it’s soul surgery. It ain’t easy.

I have read speculation that “simplex ordination” could be one solution to the priest shortage – specifically, providing the opportunity for priestly ordination to potentially thousands of deacons who are already in Holy Orders. The idea would be that they would of course receive additional training, and, like Fr. Solanus, receive faculties to say Mass and thus validly provide the Eucharist to communities or at times it is not currently available. They would not be able to necessarily hear confessions nor become canonical pastors. I believe there are many deacons who would be willing to do this out of love for God, His Church, and the people of God and not draw a salary.

Problem is, at least in America, a good deal of those deacons are permanent deacons, who are married - and the Western Church has always been reluctant to spare more than a few cases from the no-marriage discipline.

And basically, what has been said before is true - that the Mass, even in the OF, is quite idiot-proof when it comes to confecting the Eucharist; on the other hand, hearing confessions, preaching and such require a more throughgoing knowledge of theology. It doesn’t mean the priest is heterodox - just that he’s not as good in some things than in others. After all, St. John Vianney was originally prohibited by his bishop from hearing confession, and he was still perfectly orthodox.

I heard that it was quite common back in the days. I’ve heard that even St. John Vianney didn’t have faculties to hear confessions until a couple years after his ordination (and subsequently went on to become one of the best confessors of the day).

Thanks for all the replies.

Ordaining permanent deacons as “Mass priests” would, I think, create the impression that deacons were being empowered to celebrate Mass or that a new hybrid Holy Order was being created. There’s enough confusion about roles in the Church these days.

Erm . . . permanent deacons are already allowed to preach, aren’t they? Isn’t preaching a very specific and integral part of their duties?


I agree that preaching takes more in the way of theological training than confecting the Eucharist, but deacons already preach. Does hearing confessions require more theological knowledge than preaching? :confused:

Yes. In the OF, the homily is focused on the readings. One can be a wonderful homilist with a base of knowledge that has depth in Scripture but is not necessarily broad in theology. A confessor (along with a Spiritual Director and a pastor) on the other hand needs the breadth of knowledge which included moral theology, spirituality and social theology as well as knowledge of Scripture.

Your thread has really confused me. Once a priest always a priest makes sense.
Does this apply to your guy in this example? Or was it provisional?
Just seems hard to understand for me. Forgive me for being confused.

Once a priest, always a priest is absolutely true, and once a priest they do have the ability to do all of the above. But, a priest must have permission from his ordinary for it to be valid.

A priest in the most general terms is an extension of the bishop (or ordinary), so without his permission (faculties) he’s nothing. Upon ordination in the vast majority of cases, a priest is given faculties to preach, baptize, celebrate the eucharist with the public, to hear confessions, to witness marriage, anoint the sick, ect. None of these are guaranteed though, and because priests make a promise (or vow) of obedience to their ordinary, they are bound not to do something they do not have permission to do.

True enough. I guess I always thought of the preaching as the most theologically challenging part (must be my Baptist background:)), but I guess confession is probably even more so. Thanks for the perspective!

Thank you for helping to clear up some of my confusion on ordination.

Could you give me more information about this? How a Bishop would say, ordain a priest differently than others? Would one with limited faculties have a seperate ordination, or somehow be made clear to the church body as limited upon ordination? Or would they go through the rite just as any other, and only the Bishop would know what they were allowed to do or not do?
Is there any transparency in this ritual/ordination (forgive me for not knowing the actual words you would use in this case)

No, it’s not actually that complicated. Ordination is always the same, the faculties come later. For example, here’s what one priest has put on his website, basically just a letter from the bishops. Faculties can also be revoked later (for example, when a priest is suspended, or when he’s laitized his faculties will be revoked).

WOW, that’s cool. :thumbsup: I never realized a letter of faculties was so detailed. I notice the letter posted included the faculties to remit certain excommunications and to give permission for visiting priest to celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage in the parish - two faculties that, I understand, are often reserved to the Ordinary.

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