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!
It happens more often than you would think. I used to go as a catechumen.
The SSPX was founded with full approval in 1970.
November 1, 1970
The Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) is officially recognized by the local ordinary of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg, Bishop Charriere. It is therefore truly a new little branch pushed forth by the Church.
February 18, 1971
Cardinal Wright, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, issues a decree praising the wisdom of the Societys statutes.
It is an ongoing matter of controversy whether any of the SSPX priests were ever under suspension (as opposed to the original bishops).
Yes, you can find innumerable internet references and even Vatican liberal newsletters that say so but hey, they don't determine truth.
At any rate, Pope Benedict has not directed the SSPX to "stop doing what you're doing" and then come talk to us.
I’d be interested to see what Fr. Z has to say about Rome turning a blind eye towards the validity of the countless confessions (heard by) and marriages (witnessed) by the priests of Bishop de Castro Mayer, after Bishop Castro Mayer was supposedly “excommunicated”, along with Archbishop Lefebvre and his four bishops, before Bishop Rifan finally smoked the peace pipe and inhaled the “spirit of the Council”.
There is a great deal of misinformation regarding the SSPX. Long story short; after thirty-plus years away from the Catholic Church, the occasional wedding/funeral brought me into contact to what is the ordinary Catholic Mass. (if youre not aware, the Mass is the Catholic church service) I marveled; What is this creature, whats happening? only to discover that centuries of development had been dumped, forbidden, in favor of the New (as in New and Improved) Mass of Pope Paul IV, following the Vatican Council II of 1962-1965.
A group of seminarians (young men studying to be priests), horrified with the changes, approached a retired missionary priest, a former Superior General of the Holy Ghost Fathers, for help in erecting a priestly society in keeping with the Churchs tradition. He assisted drawing a charter for the organization, agreeing to help as spiritual advisor, and receiving approval from the Vatican for the society, named in honor of a twentieth century saint, Giuseppe Sarto, better known as Pope Pius X.
The first news learned of the Society of St. Pius X was that they were a cabal of heretics who lived in a ravine in Switzerland, who claimed there is no pope, and that they alone were the true Catholic Church: all false. As you may suppose, there is a strident campaign to demonize the group, by either innocent or insidious observers. You may note, Fr. Z remarks above: “Those whom I have met have seemed to be prayerful men who want to be good priests. But they dont 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.”
You may notice the sentence But they dont have faculties. and wonder, why not? The Church is closing and consolidating parishes because they havent enough priests. The reason they havent enough priests is the Church has suffered the greatest decline, in so short a time (since Vatican II), that has ever been experienced in its long history. But there is one consoling event; the amazing growth in the faithful, traditional orders, such as SSPX.
There are traditionalists who aren’t SSPX. This is the problem. SSPX folks tend to see it as “we are the traditionalists” and everyone who wasn’t them wasn’t a traditionalist. This is just simply not so.
SSPX crossed the rubicon when they decided that obedience to the Pope, the present Pope, was unnecessary for them. Had they retained their orthodoxy they would be far stronger today. Insofar as they deviated from orthodoxy, they separated themselves from the faith.
As was said earlier - validity of the sacraments doesn’t hinge on the predisposition of the individual priest. That still doesn’t absolve Fellay et al of their decision to defy the Pope.
That's a pretty good analogy ...
Some of the SSPX folks got 'reintegrated to the kernel' years ago, others have not yet, still other probably never will.
Actually, if I recall correctly, the SSPX WAS FOUNDED with approval. It’s priests are recognized as Catholic priests but are considered illicitly ordained and they lack proper faculties in every diocese in the world (hence, they should hear no confessions and perform no marriages).
Here’s an article on the canonical status of the SSPX, at least back in late 2011:
are you Catholic?
As stated, there is a great deal of misinformation regarding the SSPX. Thank you for your contribution.
Thanks for the article, a good summary.
“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.”
Thanks...I was reading something else about them the other day but was confused. I had not heard of them. Glad someone asked.
Tax chick why did they spit? What was the bee in their bonnet?
As I understand it, the changes in the liturgy after Vatican II were a big part of the rationale, but the key issue was the declaration on religious liberty. Unless I’m mistaken, the SSPX believe that was a flat-out error in doctrine, which, they say, is evidence that the Council was illegitimate and its declarations not binding.
They were excommunicated when the founder, Archbishop Lefebvre, performed episcopal ordinations without authorization. There’s a legitimate apostolic succession, which is why their ordinations are valid and the Eucharist is the true Sacrament, but their whole organization is contrary to canon law (as understood by those who say such things, such as Pope Benedict).
Where and when has Bishop Fellay defied the Pope? The bishop has balked, so far, at signing off on some funky double-secret profession of faith in a purely pastoral council that goes against tradition. But that same profession of faith has not been required of the converting Anglicans.
Bishop Fellay has called for three Rosary Crusades, either for the Pope in particular or the Catholic Church in general. What has your bishop done?
He was not permitted to ordain priests without the permission of the Pope. Same with Lefebvre. Obedience is a virtue, and if Fellay + Lefebvre are unwilling to obey they need to go.
Arrogating unwarranted authority is a huge issue. Fellay and Lefebvre seem to assume that the Church can’t do without them. Their value increases in their fidelity to the Church and to Benedict XVI and diminishes in their infidelity to the oaths they once swore many years ago.
I don’t have much sympathy for Fellay et al. If they really want to be reconciled, the door is open. Fish or cut bait.
After the lifting of the excommunications, on what grounds was Bishop Fellay forbidden from ordaining priests? As a matter fact, Bishop Fellay moved the ordinations, at the request of Rome, from Germany to Switzerland. The request was due to fury of the German Archbishop Mueller, now prefect of the CDF.
Sigh. Which excommunication are you talking about? His first one, or the second? The consecrations weren’t his first run in.
Edit, looking at what Fellay is saying now - he’s never going to be reconciled. He and the Church would have been better off if he’d never been consecrated, ever. SSPX and the RCC will move on without him.
“Which excommunication are you talking about? His first one, or the second?”
So you’re saying he was double excommunicated? Kind of like hanging a man a second time?
Tell me, please, when this second “excommunication” was incurred.
“Had they retained their orthodoxy they would be far stronger today. Insofar as they deviated from orthodoxy, they separated themselves from the faith.”
Unfortunately, by retaining their orthodoxy and attachment to the Faith, they were persecuted by modernist Popes.
Every so many years I have to re-read a summary of Dignitatis Humanae, and how it does or doesn't differ from earlier ideas about religious freedom from the time of Christendom (original meaning), but even then end up with a fairly hazy feeling about the whole thing.
At any rate, the expressed preference in Vatican II for Democratic Liberalism, knowing those two words are not used exactly as they typically would be on this forum, but kinda/sorta are, continues to make me uncomfortable.
There's some stuff in the Vatican II documents that I think is silly, including the opinion that "modern man" is somehow improved over the version we've always had. However, that is a statement of opinion, while the document of freedom of conscience is a statement of doctrine. If one believes the Council promulgated a doctrine - a statement on faith and morals, not pastoral practicalities - that is WRONG, that's a big problem.
I don't remember where I read that this was the sticking point for the SSPX, so I can't check it. I may be wrong.
On the doctrinal vs. pastoral thing, it has always seemed to me (my opinion, worth nothing), that papal quotes supporting "pastoral" run at about a 10:1 advantage over those leaning toward doctrinal, or worse, infallible (which the Magisterium generally is not).
But one particular quote from Pope Paul VI in 1977 -- promulgator of Vatican II, a year before his death -- stands out in my mind although not specifically addressing the D vs. P debate:
The tail of the devil is functioning in the disintegration of the Catholic world. The darkness of Satan has entered and spread throughout the Catholic Church even to its summit. Apostasy, the loss of the faith, is spreading throughout the world and into the highest levels within the Church.
If anyone reading can prove that this quote is not authentic I would be most appreciative to hear of it.
Meanwhile, glad my only pressing decision at the moment is regular vs. spicy.
LOL! I'm grateful to not be in charge of things, myself.
You don’t get to become a priest without the permission from the pope.
Fellay is in the exact same position he was as if Lefebvre didn’t exist. As well he should. He’s a layperson, no different than you or I.
He was warned for teaching EENS, which is contrary to Catholic doctrine. He was excommed along with Lefebvre when Lefebvre was excommed for raising Fellay to a bishop. Once that happened, and since that happened, Fellay has been a layperson.
Modernist philosophy teaches that you don’t have to follow Canon law unless it suits you - ergo Fellay is very much a product of his time.
“He was warned for teaching EENS, which is contrary to Catholic doctrine.”
EENS was Catholic doctrine for 1500 years until the Second Vatican Council.