Was this confession valid?

Oh my brother, I am freaking out!

Ok, here’s the deal.

My friend has been away from the Church for 10+ years but recently she started dating this SSPX guy, so anyway, long story short, she decided to come back to the Church and she just told me she went to confession! YAAAYS! But then OH. Was this guy an SSPX priest or not?

Because, correct me if I’m wrong, but SSPX priests CANNOT validly absolve anybody, having no authority from the Church. So in trying to figure all of this out, she told me this priest was recently ordained, probably maybe in Kansas city, and by Alfonso de Galarreta. Now this guy, Galarreta, IS SSPX, but he is one of the four bishops from which the Pope lifted excommunication. So… does that mean he has the authority to ordain now??

I mean, I just can’t wrap my head around it. Was this priest who absolved my friend an SSPX or was he not or was he but had the faculties from the Church or WHAT.

I mean, I’m tearing my hair out over this, trying desperately to figure this out, because I love my friend so dearly and have been praying for her to come back to the Church for so many years and now, she thinks she had come back into the Church, and told me how emotional her confession was, and how she received Communion again and how wonderful that was, and all I can think is that she is seeking my outburst of joy, which I would so happily give if I wasn’t so skeptical of all of this! From what she told me, she received Communion on her knees, and I think that’s what the rest of the church did, and she told me “the Church that I went to as a rule says not to attend non-Latin masses because of the confusion it might cause.” So now I am REALLY confused, because that certainly reeks of SSPX.

And so in all of this taking place on IM, I am just praying and hoping I can say the right thing and charitably, and finally I just tell her, “oh yeah, I’m tired, so I’m going to go to bed, but I really want to talk to you later!!” and thank the Holy Spirit, she thought that was normal even though I hadn’t really expressed any joy yet, because I don’t think she gets what is going through my brain yet. And then I came here.

Annnnnnd hopefullly you know what is going through my brain. I am just so torn because I want to rejoice but I am so confused and uncertain about the validity of her confession and I couldn’t give her any straight answer. She keeps expressing her identification with “Traditional Catholics” which I read as SSPX, and so I have tried to explain to her schism and all of that stuff, but she doesn’t buy it. I’m just…

Yeah. So that’s what it is, and I just care about her so much and I want to give her SOMETHING, whether it’s ecstatic encouragement or charitable catechesis, but I am stuck somewhere in the middle, in Lala Land.

So PLEEEASE if you can, just help me out here. Your prayers would be great, too. Sorry that this was so scatterbrained, but that’s exactly how I feel.

:thumbsup:God bless,

Under normal circumstances, SSPX priests cannot give a valid absolution due to the fact that they do not have faculties to perform the Sacrament.

However, because they are valid priests, they may validly give an absolution in extreme cases, like if the penitent is in immediate danger of death.

The situation you presented is not an extreme case, therefore there was no valid confession.

This is correct. (Note that “faculties” means permission from the diocesan bishop to act in the name of the Church, which the SSPX does not have, and not mere valid holy orders, which the SSPX does have.) Mind you, the SSPX has dozens of arguments and loopholes in Canon Law that it tries to use to persuade people that its confessions are valid, or that if they’re not valid valid they’re still good enough. It will be very difficult to persuade someone who does not want to be persuaded about this and adopts the SSPX party line.

Sorry to hear about your friend. This division among the Church’s faithful is so tragic and was so totally, totally unnecessary.

valid they’re still good enough. It will be very difficult to persuade someone who does not want to be persuaded about this and adopts the SSPX party line.

Sorry to hear about your friend. This division among the Church’s faithful is so tragic and was so totally, totally unnecessary.


If they have valid orders (they do), and they say the words of absolution correctly (I assume they do), then the absolution is valid.
All that is need for validity is the correct (a) Form (words of absolution and intention to absolve), and (b) Matter (a contrite absolvee). Permission from the church makes it licit, but valid ordination is what makes it valid. Permission from anyone is not needed for any priest to celebrate a sacrament validly.

That is not correct. The following three canons ought to make that clear:
Can. 966 §1. The valid absolution of sins requires that the minister have, in addition to the power of orders, the faculty of exercising it for the faithful to whom he imparts absolution.

§2. A priest can be given this faculty either by the law itself or by a grant made by the competent authority according to the norm of can. 969.

. . .

Can. 969 §1. The local ordinary alone is competent to confer upon any presbyters whatsoever the faculty to hear the confessions of any of the faithful. Presbyters who are members of religious institutes, however, are not to use the faculty without at least the presumed permission of their superior.

. . .

Can. 976 Even though a priest lacks the faculty to hear confessions, he absolves validly and licitly any penitents whatsoever in danger of death from any censures and sins, even if an approved priest is present.

No, for a valid absolution, the priest must also be a minister of the Church. A priest who isn’t a minister of the Church cannot validly say the words of absolution:

From the Extraordinary form, since that’s probably the form used by an SSPX priest:

First, from the Roman Ritual, Rules for Penance
The three things required essentially are matter, form, and minister. Its remote matter are the sins in question, its proximate matter the acts of the penitent, namely, contrition, confession, and satisfaction. The form consists in the actual words of absolution: I absolve you, etc. The minister is a priest who possesses either ordinary or delegated power to absolve.
source: sanctamissa.org/en/resources/books-1962/rituale-romanum/26-the-sacrament-of-penance-general-rules.html

The form of absolution:
May our Lord Jesus Christ absolve you. And I by His authority release you from every bond of excommunication (suspension) and interdict, in so far as I am empowered and you have need. And now I absolve you from your sins; in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
source: sanctamissa.org/en/resources/books-1962/rituale-romanum/27-the-sacrament-of-penance-absolution.html

Since absolution is a juridic act of the Church, only one who can legitimately represent the Church can absolve. This is a “legal” act which requires the legal authority of the Church. In danger of death, the Church gives this legal authority to any priest, even one who is suspended, excommunicated, or never part of the Church in the first place–but such a priest can only absolve because the Church has given him that authority. Since an SSPX priest cannot represent the Church neither can he validly absolve.

Also, since faculties are needed, not every priest can just go anywhere and hear confession. Each priest will have faculties within the diocese they serve in. So if they move into another diocese, they would have to obtain permission again from that diocese’s Bishop.

If you are a priest that belongs to a religious institution, you can hear confessions anywhere in the world as long as within the confines of your religious house. If you will hear confessions of the public, then again you need to ask permission from the Bishop of that diocese.

The Pope, Cardinals and Bishops can hear confessions anywhere in the world without necessarily having to ask permission from the local Bishop. Although the local Bishop can deny other Bishops the faculties in their territory, but by default the visiting Bishop has.

The necessity for faculties is only lifted if there is danger of death. So if you’re on an airplane that suddenly lost power to all its engines and you’re sitting next to a SSPX or Orthodox priest, you may receive the Sacrament of Penance from them validly and licitly.

Thank you so much! Knowledgeable people who bring sources to back them up are exactly what I needed. This has really clarified this for me. It seems quite clear that this priest was SSPX and had no faculties to absolve.

Which leads me to another question: Why did Bishop Galaretta ordain this man? If he was ordaining an SSPX priest, then that would certainly be illicit, am I right? That being said, why would the Pope have lifted his excommunication if he was going to continue denying his authority? I guess that just being in communion again does not ensure that a person’s actions will be licit?

Thanks to everybody. I think it will be a hard conversation with my friend, seeing as how she just poured her heart out and believes she is again in communion with the Church. All I can do is show her all the evidence and pray.

The Pope lifted the excommunications of the SSPX bishops as an act of charity so that they may participate fully in the worship by the Church.

That is not to say that they are authorised yet to carry out various functions within the structures of the Church. The SSPX has is not yet integrated back into the Church and any functions they perform have to be seen within that light. They do not, yet, take their orders from the Pope, for example. They’re talking about it, yes, but no conclusions have yet been reached. Therefore, in official terms, there are validly ordained priests within SSPX, although not necessarily all of them if they were ‘ordained’ by ‘bishops’ who were at the time excommunicated. It is, as you can see, all very complicated.

In any case, valid absolution requires the priest doing the absolving to be in good standing with the diocese in which the absolution takes place. A priest may, incidentally, be permitted to celebrate Mass in a diocese while not being permitted to hear confessions.

All that being said, if a person was ‘absolved’ by a priest not permitted to do so and the person subsequently received Communion in the belief that they were in an appropriate state of grace, I doubt that any further sin would have been committed by that person. However, with regard to preventing sacrilege, I’d suggest that anyone aware of a person receiving communion under such circumstances to charitably and gently let that person know so that they can seek appropriate counsel from a correctly authorised priest.

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