Valid sacrament


#1

Does FSSPX have valid sacrament of matrimony and sacrament of confession?
And is it really true that the Easter/Oriental have 7 valid sacrament whereas FSSPX doesn’t?


#2

For the Sacraments of Marriage, and the ability to absolve sins, “jurisdiction” and/or “faculties” are needed and that is supplied by the Ordinary (Bishop) of the diocese or the Superior of an Order.

Since the SSPX has no legitimate ministry in the Church, they have no jurisdiction, therefore those particular Sacraments would be invalid.

I do not know enough about the Orthodox to give you the whys & wherefores of their Sacraments.


#3

Eastern and Oriental Orthodox do have valid sacraments for members of their Churches. A Catholic can validly marry in one of those Churches only with a dispensation from his bishop. A Catholic should not confess to a priest of one of those Churches except in danger of death and when a Catholic priest is unavailable.


#4

There are grave doubts as to the validity of confessions heard by and marriages witnessed by SSPX clergy. There is no authoritative answer as to their validity or invalidity, however.


#5

If a Catholic contracted marriage with an Orthodox in the Orthodox Church, and had no other impediments such as prior bond, the marriage would be valid but illicit if the Catholic party did not obtain the appropriate permission for mixed marriage and dispensation from form.

This is per Canon 1127 of the 1983 code of canon law, based on the document Crescens Matrimoniorum issued in 1967.


#6

Yes, there is an authoritative answer.

(then) Pope Benedict wrote this in a letter to all the bishops of the Church
In order to make this clear once again: until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers – even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty – do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.
vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/letters/2009/documents/hf_ben-xvi_let_20090310_remissione-scomunica_en.html

How many times did he have to “make it clear once again”???

Since marriage and confession both require that the minister be one who does exercise legitimate ministry in the Church, it doesn’t get any clearer. The SSPX attempts at those sacraments are null and void.


#7

An important difference here is that the Orthodox are true Churches. Yes, it’s true that they have all the sacraments, and they are valid (there’s no question there).

The SSPX, on the other hand, is a society comprised only of priests. There are no laity in the SSPX. They are not a Church, and not even an ecclesial community (like the Protestants). They are a group of priests who (although validly ordained) have no ministry in the Church. None.


#8

please explain this a bit more!


#9

I must disagree with you, Father. I am well aware of this quote. Had the Holy Father wished to remove all doubt that these sacraments were null, he would have explicitly stated that. He carefully did not; I do not wish to attribute any meaning to the Holy Father that contradicts his exact worlds.

His caution is a grave and binding warning, that it illicit to seek sacraments from clergy outside the full and proper union of the church. The validity of their sacraments is a secondary concern not explicitly addressed. I cannot sufficiently stress the gravity of receiving a valid sacrament illicitly, even if the SSPX’s witnessed valid marriages or heard valid confessions. I do not wish to mislead anybody into believing a myth of “mere” illicitness makes attempting these sacraments “OK.” To do so flatly disregards the instructions of the past sumpreme pontiff.


#10

OK. But remember “you asked for it.” Once I start typing, I tend to ramble:)

2 parts.

  1. The SSPX are not a Church because the society itself is comprised only of priests. They have no lay members. We cannot call it a Church simply because there are no “members” to comprise a Church. Many people don’t often realize this, because we know full well that there are SSPX “parishes” and communities out there, and we might even see a few hundred people attending regularly and participating, but those people are not actually “members” of the SSPX.

  2. (Then) Pope Benedict* wrote this is an open letter to all the bishops of the world
    In order to make this clear once again: until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers – even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty – do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.

Those words “in order to make this clear once again” are very telling. It is as if the Pope is saying “how many times do I have to say it before the point gets across?” The SSPX priests exercise no ministry in the Church. There’s no ambiguity there, “no ministry” means exactly what it says “no ministry.”

It doesn’t mean “sometimes.” It doesn’t mean “maybe.” It doesn’t mean “if you don’t like the pastor at your own parish.” It doesn’t mean “if you don’t like the Missal of Pope Paul VI.” It means exactly what it says “no ministry.”

Now, in order to either officiate at a marriage or to absolve sinners, the minister MUST be a minister of the Church.

It’s possible for a minister to be given those faculties in certain circumstances; for example, a Protestant minister (who are technically laypersons) can be delegated by the local bishop to officiate at a marriage of a Catholic to a Protestant. But this is only valid if it’s done with the bishop’s permission. Without that permission, it’s an invalid attempt, when at least one party is Catholic. Marriage is essentially a contract/covenant that is ministered by the couple and witnessed by the Church. In order to be a witness who stands for the Church, that officiant must be a “minister of” the Church. I’ll use myself as an example. If I go on vacation outside my diocese and I happen to meet a couple who wants to get married, I cannot just “marry them” because I’m a priest. Because I am outside of my own place of jurisdiction AND because I have no jurisdiction over those 2 people. If I attempt to officiate at such a wedding, it would be an invalid attempt at a Sacrament. Being a priest is not enough to officiate at weddings—I must also be an official representative of the Church, and to do that, I must have jurisdiction or must have delegation from one who does have that jurisdiction. Once again, “no ministry in the Church” means “no ministry in the Church.” I do believe that it is possible for a local bishop to dispense from canonical form to allow a Catholic and a non-Catholic to marry before an SSPX priest, but that’s just not the topic at hand.

The same principle also applies for Confession, but in an even stronger way.
In order for a priest to absolve sinners, 2 conditions are absolutely necessary (for the priest). 1 He must be validly ordained and 2 he must have the faculties to absolve. The valid ordination is a non-issue. The SSPX priests are validly ordained, so no need to take that any further. It’s the #2 that needs explaining.

A priest can absolve because of 2 biblical sources “whose sins you forgive are forgiven…” and “Thou art Peter…whatever you loose on earth…” This is not an either-or, but a both-and. Ordination gives a priest the potential to absolve sinners, but he cannot do that unless he has the juridic “power” to act on behalf of the Church. Absolution is, by definition, a juridic act of the Church. No priest can absolve unless he has the specific juridic authority of the Church to do so. In short, we usually say “faculties to absolve.” Those faculties come from either jurisdiction (a diocesan bishop, or a pastor, or a Cardinal as representative of the pope, etc) or by the fact that those faculties have been granted to him by competent authority. If a priest has no faculties to absolve, then he cannot possibly act as a minister of the Church to perform the juridic act of absolving. A judge from the United States cannot cross over into Canada and issue a search warrant because that’s a juridic act, and he has no jurisdiction, no authority, there. Simply put, if a priest (even though validly ordained) has no faculties to absolve, any attempts at absolution are merely a simulation of the sacrament. No faculties means no juridic act. Plain and simple.

In the case of danger of death, the Church gives faculties to any validly ordained priest to absolve, through the law itself. The key point here is that the Church grants those faculties. They would not exist were it not for the fact that the Church grants them in those particular circumstances. Oftentimes, in discussing “danger of death” people miss that important point—a priest cannot “automatically” absolve. He still needs faculties, and those are given to him for that moment alone. Unless the situation is danger of death, an SSPX priest has “no ministry in the Church” and therefore cannot, not by any stretch of the imagination, claim to be acting as a minister of the Church. “No ministry” means “no minister.”

So then, where do we go from here?

  • I keep typing “then” Pope Benedict, because given our current situation, I do not want any misunderstanding that I’m trying to imply that the Pope Emeritus is still the current Pope. He was Pope when he said it.

#11

Shortened for space.

Thank you for your detailed response. I have a couple of questions.

  1. We have all heard the stories of priests who hear confessions in an airport or on a vacation cruise or such. I have heard stories from my own parish priests like this. Do they all have permission say from the bishop of LA to hear a confession in LAX?
  2. Since the SSPX have bishops but no “diocese” how does that work. The power to forgive sins comes from one’s Bishop. Well, the SSPX bishops are “Catholic” Bishops.:shrug:
  3. Speaking of the Pope Emeritus. Would he need permission from a local Bishop to hear confessions in a neighboring diocese? Does any Bishop?
  4. Would an SSPX priest be able to hear confessions if the Bishop of the diocese they were in gave them permission?

It is all so confusing! But your knowledge helps to clarify!


#12

At the present time, they don’t actually need it (they did in the past). A priest who has habitual faculties to hear confessions has them for the whole world, unless the local bishop denies that to a particular priest.

  1. Since the SSPX have bishops but no “diocese” how does that work. The power to forgive sins comes from one’s Bishop. Well, the SSPX bishops are “Catholic” Bishops.:shrug:

It doesn’t work. That’s the point.
Their bishops have no authority to grant faculties to a priest (they don’t even have those faculties themselves). Any SSPX sacerdos who attempts absolution is merely simulating a sacrament (unless danger of death).
Bishops can grant faculties to hear confessions by virtue of their “Ordinary” power (meaning, the power of governing). Non-bishop ordinaries can also grant faculties, such as the Anglican Ordinaries. A bishop who has no “ordinary” power (no governance) cannot grant faculties. For example, a bishop assigned to an office at the Vatican, but with no pastoral office, cannot grant faculties to a priest to hear confessions, because he must be the bishop of a diocese (or equivalent) to do this.

  1. Speaking of the Pope Emeritus. Would he need permission from a local Bishop to hear confessions in a neighboring diocese?

The law is silent on this, because the law does not envision a retired pope (not in the sense of defining his faculties, I mean).
I would speculate that Pope Francis has given Pope Emeritus full faculties, either formally (privately) or otherwise. Rome is still a diocese, and “technically” HH Benedict, as retired bishop of Rome has the status of “bishop emeritus” of that diocese----this is a question that’s been thrown around among canonists for the last year.
For the sake of discussion, let’s assume that Pope Francis has given the Pope Emeritus faculties (I think that’s pretty safe to assume.) I mean no disrespect when I say this.
Since HH Benedict has habitual faculties to hear confession, he can hear them anywhere in the world.
Another possibility is that because HH Benedict is still technically a Cardinal, the law itself gives him faculties to hear confessions anywhere in the world.

Does any Bishop?

Any bishop who has faculties to hear confessions (and every bishop does have them unless he’s suspended or excommunicated [it does happen, unfortunately]) can do so anywhere in the world. Again, unless the local bishop specifically forbids him, and that is very, very rare indeed.

  1. Would an SSPX priest be able to hear confessions if the Bishop of the diocese they were in gave them permission?

No.
The only way that could happen would be if the SSPX priest were to be reconciled to the Church and incardinated into the diocese. Of course, if that happens, it makes the point of your question moot.

It is all so confusing! But your knowledge helps to clarify!

Thanks. I can only try.


#13

Ok baby step me through this please.

what is the difference between Suspended and Excommunicated and are the SSPX bishops either of those.

The universal ability of a cardinal to hear confessions would apply only to ordained cardinals right? Is this stated anywhere.

So, another Bishop CAN have power over another Bishop within the former’s diocese.
So how come a Bishop can allow an SSPX priest use of a diocesan facility to say Mass. But not to hear confessions?

Here is where I am confused, IF the sacraments of these things are valid but illicit. The ordination of priests in the SSPX, the Ordination of Bishops in the SSPX, The ability to have some sacraments valid in the SSPX (but not licit) then how do the SSPX Bishops not have the authority to allow confessions?


#14

Suspended means that a cleric cannot exercise ministry. Excommunicated means that he has separated himself from the life of the Church, and also that he cannot exercise any ministry. A suspended priest, just for example, can still receive Communion (he can’t celebrate though). An excommunicated person cannot receive. Of course, reconciliation is always possible.

Only individual persons (not groups) can be either suspended or excommunicated.
Pope Benedict lifted the excommunications of the SSPX bishops (individually, even though he did it as a single act). But they still have no ministry in the Church. They have no office.

The universal ability of a cardinal to hear confessions would apply only to ordained cardinals right? Is this stated anywhere.

Right.
Canon law says that only a priest (sacerdos, meaning bishop or presbyter) can absolve. It’s also in the Catechism, and plenty of other places. I’m not sure what you mean by the question, because I suppose you already know that. I might be misreading the question.
I think this might be what you’re looking for:
Can. 967 §1. In addition to the Roman Pontiff, cardinals have the faculty of hearing the confessions of the Christian faithful everywhere in the world by the law itself. Bishops likewise have this faculty and use it licitly everywhere unless the diocesan bishop has denied it in a particular case.
Even though it’s not stated in canon 967 itself, the understanding there is that it refers to Cardinals who are ordained bishops or priests (but not deacons). There are a few Cardinals over age 80 who are priests. In theory, the pope can name a deacon or even a layman a Cardinal (this did happen often before about 1900).

So, another Bishop CAN have power over another Bishop within the former’s diocese.

Yes. Surely.

So how come a Bishop can allow an SSPX priest use of a diocesan facility to say Mass. But not to hear confessions?

He cannot. He cannot allow an SSPX priest to do either. It’s very simple. No ministry means no ministry.
He can “loan” the church building as a matter of hospitality (he could also do so for a Lutheran minister or a Rabbi), but he cannot actually give that SSPX priest faculties to say Mass for the purpose of serving the people of the diocese.
Granting faculties and loaning a building are two entirely different animals.

Here is where I am confused, IF the sacraments of these things are valid but illicit.

OK. Stop right there.
People often use the phrase “valid but illicit” in reference to the SSPX. That only causes confusion, and oversimplifies a very complicated situation.
There are 7 Sacraments (as you well know). Each one has different criteria for determining if it’s valid and/or licit. We cannot make blanket statements that cover all 7 Sacraments. In this context, we have to look at each sacrament individually. That’s critically important.

The ordination of priests in the SSPX, the Ordination of Bishops in the SSPX, The ability to have some sacraments valid in the SSPX (but not licit) then how do the SSPX Bishops not have the authority to allow confessions?

It’s very simple, really. I’ve already explained it earlier.
In order for a bishop to grant faculties to hear confessions, that bishop must have the ordinary power of governance. No authority as an ordinary means no authority to grant faculties.

Look at it this way. Let’s say that there’s a bishop working at the Vatican, but that bishop has no actual diocese (there are plenty of them). He’s a perfectly legitimate bishop, no question about it. But he cannot grant faculties to any priest because in order to do that, the cleric who grants faculties MUST have an actual office of governance in the Church that gives him jurisdiction AS an Ordinary. A retired bishop cannot grant faculties because he has no office of Ordinary authority. (I’m capitalizing Ordinary because I do not mean that as “everyday” but as an office of governance.)

Only an Ordinary can grant faculties to a priest. The SSPX bishops (though validly ordained as bishops) have no office that gives them Ordinary jurisdiction. It’s that simple. Really it’s that simple. No power of governance means no authority to give faculties.

Think of it this way:
The county sheriff can deputize someone.
But what if I am not the county sheriff? Can I just go around deputizing people and calling them “deputy sheriffs?” Of course not! If I am not the sheriff myself (or perhaps the governor, or someone else with that authority), then I can go around all day saying to people “raise your right hand and repeat after me…” Not a single one of them will actually be a deputy. Plain and simple. Nothing complicated about it.
No SSPX bishop can give faculties to any priest because none of them have any Ordinary office in the Church—indeed none of them have ANY ministry in the Church. None.

And by the way, as far as I know, the SSPX bishops don’t even claim to give faculties to priests.
I visited their official website (no, I won’t post the link), and from what I can see there, their bishops do not even attempt to grant faculties. In fact, if they did, it would cause all of their false arguments for legitimacy to come to a screeching halt.


#15

I am sorry to disagree, Father. The pope spoke deliberately, declaring that no lawful ministry (and thus no lawful sacraments) are celebrated by the SSPX. He carefully did not state that the confessions they hear or the marriages they witness are invalid; neither did he declare such sacrament valid. I do not wish to attribute any meaning to Pope Benedict that he did not explicitly state.

The validity of these sacraments is in fact irrelevant, because Catholics in good standing are not permitted to attempt to receive them from the SSPX.


#16

They mean the same thing.

Absolution is a juridic act. Juridic means “lawful” so if an act is “not lawful” then neither is it juridic. Therefore, any attempt at absolution is null and void.

Can you explain to me how a “juridic act” can be unlawful yet somehow legitimate at the same time?

For a marriage to be valid, it must be witnessed by one who can officially represent the Church. Since they have no ministry, neither can they witness marriages.

It’s very simple. They have no ministry in the Church means they have no ministry in the Church.

The problem is that the SSPX have spent 40 years now crafting and spinning their lies, and their manipulations of the law, and of theology. It won’t change things, though.

In order to make this clear once again: until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers – even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty – do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.

What part of “do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church” can possibly lead one to believe that they do exercise legitimate ministry in the Church???

Either they do, or they do not. It cannot be both ways.

I rather believe that Pope Benedict knew what he was talking about when he wrote that. To say anything to the contrary (and here, I mean the SSPX) is nothing more than a manipulation and a deception.


#17

If a person, thinking FSSPX Priests can hear give absolution, confess sins to such a Priest will those sins never be absolved. This person will not go to an FSSP Priest and confess the sins again. Those sins will therefore never be forgiven?
How would it be if we use the same example but in the confessional was a layman instead of that FSSPX Priest. What would happen!

How is that a “schismatic” (is that term still used?) like a Coptic Orthodox Priest can give valid absolution if the FSSPX Priest can’t?

People are often reffering to the Canon law. Just because something is written down in the Canon it is automaticaly true?


#18

They’ll never be absolved. Because absolution is a juridic act of the Church. Only one who represents the Church juridically can absolve. (see end of post)

How would it be if we use the same example but in the confessional was a layman instead of that FSSPX Priest. What would happen!

Exactly the same thing. There would be no absolution. (again, end of post)

How is that a “schismatic” (is that term still used?) like a Coptic Orthodox Priest can give valid absolution if the FSSPX Priest can’t?

This particular question actually comes up very regularly here on CAF.
The short answer is that the Orthodox Churches, from before the Schism, had jurisdiction to absolve. Simply, no pope has ever withdrawn that authority (the Power of the Keys, given to Peter alone, and his successors), therefore they still retain it. Important: that’s a very short answer to a very complicated issue.

People are often reffering to the Canon law. Just because something is written down in the Canon it is automaticaly true?

In the case of confession, it is automatically true, because absolution is a juridic act of the Church. Since it’s a legal act, then whatever the law says is indeed “automatically true.” Also, realize that the Code of Canon law did not just come out of nowhere in 1983. It’s based on nearly 2000 years of history, liturgy, practice, and above all Scripture.

It’s important to understand the distinction between forgiveness and absolution.

Forgiveness means that God has remitted (forgotten, erased, etc. etc.) the sin.

Absolution, on the other hand, is a juridic act of the Church, whereby the sinner is reconciled to the Church.

When we confess, and we celebrate the sacrament of Confession in its fullness, we are both forgiven and absolved by the priest (2 sides of a single coin). Reconciliation is “both forgiveness and absolution” together.

God can (and indeed does) forgive sins, even without the sacrament. On the other hand, for absolution to occur, it is absolutely necessary that this be done by a priest who is a minister of the Church (not just validly ordained, but a minister of the Church).

To expand on what I responded above, confession to an SSPX priest has the same result as a Catholic going to the confessional, following the rite, and being “absolved”; but the man on the other side of the screen is an impostor who was never ordained to anything.

The penitent does not know any better. The penitent acts in good faith, thinking that he’s going to confession, but no actual sacrament occurs.

I recently read a good way of explaining this: the Church essentially “sanitizes” (heals) the situation. The penitent is still forgiven by God because God knows what is in the heart, and knows that the penitent wants to be forgiven and is doing his best to be forgiven. The penitent receives all the graces of the Sacrament.

It’s the same as a situation where someone impersonates a priest and “says Mass” for a group of unwitting people. There’s no actual consecration, but because they’ve been deceived, it’s not held against them—they receive all the graces even though there’s no actual consecration. Of course, if they know he isn’t a real priest, that doesn’t apply.


#19

Need to be careful with the abbreviations:

FSSP: Fraternitas Sacerdotalis Sancti Petri – Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, a “Clerical Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right”. The Fraternity’s pontifical-right status means that it has been established by the Pope and is answerable only to him in terms of their operation (through the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei). Their charism, is to offer the Mass and other sacraments according to the Roman Rite as it existed before the liturgical reforms that followed the Second Vatican Council.

SSPX: Society of Saint Pius X – Do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church


#20

I do not dispute this. Asking if their sacraments are valid is the wrong question. Asking if one may attempt these sacraments is the correct answer. The answer is, “No”.

I rather believe that Pope Benedict knew what he was talking about when he wrote that. …

I believe this too. I believe he deliberately did not close the door to the sacrament’s validity. At best, this leaves a remote possibility of validity as an act of mercy, that fornication and unconfessed sins are not compounding the laity’s who follow the SSPX disobedience to the church. I strongly opposed this obedience.


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