Skip to comments.Confession to an SSPX priest a sin? [CATHOLIC CAUCUS]
Posted on 01/30/2013 2:59:30 PM PST by NYer
From a reader:
While doing research I came across something that said that one of the faithful who knowingly receives a Sacrament from a priest without faculties commits a sin. I have always attended SSPX chapels and gone to confession there. But after what I read, I haven’t known what to do. I haven’t gone to Confession in months. I’m also afraid of having a disagreement with my parents. My Dad has very strong opinions about anything not connected with the SSPX.
The Church’s law says clearly that if a priest lacks the faculties from proper authority to receive sacramental confessions, and therefore absolve sins, then the absolution is invalid. The priest must have faculties from the Church to absolve validly.
The 1983 Code of Canon Law says that:
Can. 966 §1 For the valid absolution of sins, it is required that, in addition to the power of order, the minister has the faculty to exercise that power in respect of the faithful to whom he gives absolution.
§2 A priest can be given this faculty either by the law itself, or by a concession issued by the competent authority in accordance with can. 969.
From this we see that priests must have permission of the Church to absolve sins. The Church, by the way, gets to determine how the sacraments are administered. The SSPX does not get to decide how sacraments are administered.
Usually it is a diocesan bishop or major superior of a religious order that give these faculties to a priest in a stable way. In danger of death of a person the Church’s law says that, in that circumstance, even a “laicized” priest has faculties. This is because the salvation of the soul of the dying person is paramount.
We don’t know what God does for the soul of a person who, in good will and in ignorance, goes to confess to a priest who lacks faculties. We can’t judge that. God will do as it pleases Him to do.
Also, we have to consider culpable and inculpable ignorance. Catholics ought to inform themselves about their Faith. To what extent is a matter for debate. But once you walk through the door of exploring your Faith even to the point of learning about the law and faculties that priests have, I think you are on the hook. You don’t have to wonder ever about priests at the local parish or official chapel established by the local diocese. Even Father “Just call me ‘Bob’” has faculties, even though he is a heretic.
That said, if a person has been informed that SSPX priests do not have faculties to receive sacramental confessions, and goes to them anyway, a huge problem is introduced. Those priests don’t – in normal circumstances – have faculties. Period. Some people say they have “emergency powers”. The Church does not agree. They don’t have faculties.
It seems to me that if a person knows that the priest does NOT have faculties, and he goes to him anyway, then he knows that he is simulating a sacrament. That would be a sin.
Simulating a sacrament can bring ecclesiastical penalties, by the way (can. 1379).
If there are doubts, true doubts, that is another matter. But the prudent person would find an actual confessor, a priest who without doubt has faculties. Go to the local parish, a real parish of the diocese, and you don’t have to doubt, even if the priest is a complete jerk.
And please understand that in writing this I am not saying that the SSPX priests are bad men. Those whom I have met have seemed to be prayerful men who want to be good priests. But they don’t have faculties. I long for them to be reconciled with the Church so that we can all benefit from their service and example and zeal.
This is serious business, friends. You never want to doubt that your sins are absolved. Don’t fool around with this.
The value of a valid absolution that you don’t have to doubt by far outweighs the irritation that some dopey priest inflicts by saying that X isn’t a sin, etc.
SSPX is the “Society of St. Pius X,” that is, Pope Pius the 10th, who was Pope ... oh, early in the 20th Century. Nice fellow, the children’s biography of him is titled “The Farm Boy Who Became Pope,” because of his background in rural poverty.
The SSPX branched off from the “regular” Catholic Church in the 60s or 70s. You’re probably not interested in why, or where that puts them under Canon Law.
Haven’t they been regularized already? If not - thank you for posting this. Good info to have.
The SSPX is a traditionalist organization, founded in 1970 without approval. The Vatican has been in negotiations with them for decades. The Catholic Church does not recognize the priests ordained under the renegade bishop.
This is interesting. I would not have thought of it’s being an issue, because the SSPX priests are validly ordained. The point about “simulating a sacrament” makes sense, if the penitent knows that a valid absolution requires diocesan faculties, and knows a SSPX priest doesn’t have faculties, then clearly there’s a sense of defiance, just as if a person who wasn’t free to marry went through a marriage ceremony.
On the other hand, one could confess to a layperson, simply as a pious exercise in penitence, and that wouldn’t bring this area of canon law up at all.
Is it an express sin as stated in the bible? Than no, it is not.
Actually, being involved with Linux, I do follow forking and re-integration of the kernel. So yes, I am interested. Thank you for the information. All of you.
I shall leave you to your caucus and bother you no more.
I thought they had approval in the beginning, but went afoul when Lefebvre consecrated bishops without JPII’s permission.
If you confess, in good faith, to a person you know is a priest, your confession is valid but may be illicit if the priest is hearing the confession without the faculties granted by the local bishop except in cases of emergency. If the priest is hearing confessions without the appropriate faculties, the moral onus is on the priest, not the penitent. That’s the difference between illicit and invalid. The penitent’s actions are valid. The priest’s actions are illicit. In an emergency - accidents, imminent death etc - confession to a priest is valid and licit. Even a “former” priest may absolve in those situations. Canon law always operates to the benefit of the faithful while governing the actions of the minister.
You will not hear heresy within the confessional from an SSPX priest. You will, frequently, from a mainstream diocesan priest ordained and living under the subversive influences of VII. Even to be told that sins you know are sins “are not sins”. I personally would avoid the question of whether the SSPX absolution is valid by going to an FSSP priest, instead, who at least get the liturgy and sacramental traditions right.
Thanks for the correction!
While the priests are validly ordained, they are suspended a divinis.
On the other hand, one could confess to a layperson, simply as a pious exercise in penitence, and that wouldnt bring this area of canon law up at all.
I don't mean to laugh but that brings up a situation here where, an individual who studied to become a deacon but never completed the program, has been visiting local area prisons and hearing confessions. He is a bizarre individual who, when turned away by one of the most progressive dioceses, became vindictive. He is a very confused individual. Your comment also reminds me of a story I heard years ago, about a Jewish man who would go to confession at St. Patrick's Cathedral in NYC. The priest, of course, could not give him absolution.
I wasn’t thinking of weird people, but of someone, perhaps with no connection to Catholicism, who might want to confess his sins to another person. The Bible, after all, says “Confess your sins to one another,” and that can be understood in a variety of different ways.
“The priest, of course, could not give him absolution.”
No, but the Jewish guy at least got someone to listen to his problems for a few minutes without having to pay a therapist’s bill!