Thursday, September 3, 2015

FSSPX Confessions

The official line some harsh critics of Msgr. Lefebvre's fraternity have held in recent years asserts that, by lack of jurisdiction, priests of the Fraternity of St. Pius X cannot absolve sins under normal circumstances. They also assert that the 1983 Codex's provisions for crises, cases of emergency, and common error do not apply—some in fidelity to John Paul II and some out of legal positivism.

The Fraternity has always held, to the contrary, that their absolutions hold valid because of common error, because the Law supplies the faculties where jurisdiction is lacking, and because the faithful supply jurisdiction (canon 1335 allows the faithful to request Sacraments of any priest not under latae sententiae excommunication for any reason whatsoever). 

In short, it's all a mess, and Francis's latest letter does not clarify the matter. He grants that "those who during the Holy Year of Mercy approach these priests of the Fraternity of St Pius X to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation shall validly and licitly receive the absolution of their sins." What he does not do is grant explicit faculties to the Fraternity, which would be necessary to fit this narrative, which posits that the FSSPX is being "given the faculty to hear confessions." The Pope is actually investing, in some rather ambiguous way, the power for the laity to give the Fraternity jurisdiction, which has been their claim all along. If the Pope does want to reconcile the followers of the man they call "the Archbishop," then it would only make sense that he ingratiate their claims a bit, ironically more diplomatic than Benedict XVI's approach—which many commentators at the time insisted was the Fraternity's last chance.

I have no vested interest in the outcome of this. I have attended one Fraternity Mass in my life and never confessed to one of their priests, but this does matter for the greater Church, for Vatican II's legacy, for the legitimacy of resistance to the new ways, and for the future of the papacy. 

Validity of FSSPX absolutions. Discuss....


  1. Canon law seems pretty cut and dry in favor of validity.

    No one is convincing me that the Confessions I made for 10+ years are invalid.

  2. Well, it is not so cut and dried as those who succor the sspx are wont to claim.

    Holy Orders, Jurisdiction. Faculies are necessary for absolution of sins and the sspx ain't got those three necessities and the idea of the church supplies in their instance was a claim directly addressed and rejected by Pope Saint John Paul II who, as Pope, is the legislator of Canon Law.

    Men forget that Mons Lefebvre had zero authority at the time he launched the sspx. He was not a Bishop with Jurisdiction and the idea he had some right to create a structure within the already existing Jurisdictions of Bishops in communion with the Pope is an idea that can find no precedent within Tradition.

    ABS hopes they are reconciled but when these captious matters arise, one is constrained to listen to the Church; i.e., the Pope in this matter, rather than the opinion of this or that canonist for they have zero authority.

    1. Let's look at what church law actually says about this.

      Canon 1335:
      "If a censure prohibits the celebration of sacraments or sacramentals or the placing of an act of governance, the prohibition is suspended whenever it is necessary to care for the faithful in danger of death. If a latae sententiae censure has not been declared, the prohibition is also suspended whenever a member of the faithful requests a sacrament or sacramental or an act of governance; a person is permitted to request this for any just cause."

      I've heard two interpretations of "just cause":

      1. You want it. A sacrament is an external sign of grace, therefore the reception of sacraments carries graces. What Catholic in his/her right mind would pass up grace? Therefore, simply wanting to receive grace is just cause enough to receive a valid sacrament wherever available. One cannot consider themselves Catholic unless they strive to receive the sacraments as often as possible.

      2. You need it (even if it isn't a "danger of death" scenario). For confession, having a grievous/mortal sin is sufficient cause enough (salvation of souls must come before all legal considerations). For the Eucharist, wanting It while being properly disposed is sufficient cause (I could never get on board with the Jansenistic view of some who sit in the pews during Communion even when they can receive and only receive when they feel "worthy"). For marriage, the mutual decision of a Catholic man and woman to be married is sufficient. Baptism can be done by anyone and Confirmation requires only a validly ordained bishop (even if said bishop has no legal standing). Holy Orders is valid period, even when done illicitly (as in the SSPX). Anointing of the Sick can be done for many other reasons than being on a deathbed (a blessing or even a workaround way to give absolution without confession), as this excerpt from the catechism demonstrates:

      "The anointing of the sick is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death. Hence, as soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived"

    2. Also, there is this canon

      Canon 844:
      §1. Catholic ministers administer the sacraments licitly to Catholic members of the Christian faithful alone, who likewise receive them licitly from Catholic ministers alone, without prejudice to the prescripts of §§2, 3, and 4 of this canon, and ⇒ can. 861, §2.

      §2. Whenever necessity requires it or true spiritual advantage suggests it, and provided that danger of error or of indifferentism is avoided, the Christian faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister are permitted to receive the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from non-

      Catholic ministers in whose Churches these sacraments are valid.

      §3. Catholic ministers administer the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick licitly to members of Eastern Churches which do not have full communion with the Catholic Church if they seek such on their own accord and are properly disposed. This is also valid for members of other Churches which in the judgment of the Apostolic See are in the same condition in regard to the sacraments as these Eastern Churches.

      §4. If the danger of death is present or if, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops, some other grave necessity urges it, Catholic ministers administer these same sacraments licitly also to other Christians not having full communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed.

      §5. For the cases mentioned in §§2, 3, and 4, the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops is not to issue general norms except after consultation at least with the local competent authority of the interested non-Catholic Church or community.

  3. The Catholic Church has a threefold governmental power,Legislative, Judicial, and Coercetive, and it, repeatedly, has declared the SSPX a schism and the PCILT (Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts) has consistently , and always, rebuffed the willful claims of the sspx vis a vis canon law and so why even cite various canons (but not the ones unfavorable to the sspx) when he who is the interpreter of canon law (The Pope) prior to the acts of Lefebvre, declared no emergency existed?

    One either follows the authoritative Church or the schism.

    Thankfully, it is less than four hours until cabernet, fish + bail pesto pasta, and then Chartreuse time :

    1. It's always Chartreuse time!

    2. Even if no emergency existed, Canon Law provides for supplied jurisdiction. And anyways, all that stuff about the "schism" of the SSPX is irrelevant as to whether their confessions are valid or not.

    3. Indeed. Orthodox, Miaphysite, and Assyrian confessions are all valid.

  4. Another point: I wish you would stick to just the point of discussing SSPX confessions and not go on a tangent, ABS.

  5. Dear Paul. Not go on a tangent? But, ABS is Irish-Algonquin, and much of his fun is derived tangentially.

    So we have the One True Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, in the person of Cardinal Gantin (sp?) representing Pope Saint John Paul II, warning lefebvre not to do what he was going to do because no state of emergency existed and you side with the schism.

    Well, then what need have we for the Church?

    Let's all just canon lawyer-up and actualise our own wills.

    O, and the reason the orthodox confessions are jake is Holy Orders, Apostolic Succession, and Jurisdiction, all of which they had prior to the schism and they maintained the critical criteria after the schism.

    ABS will require a surfeit of Chartreuse to surrender to the claim that the church supplied jurisdiction to a newly-formed schism. Where/when in Catholic Tradition has that ever happened?

    Now, where is The Bride; time to get Friday rolling.

    O,and ABS does not only not intend to offend any man, he has far too much love and respect for Rad Trad to turn his comboxes into a rhetorical food fight.

    pax tecum

    1. This is why I like you, ABS. I completely disagree with how you view the Church but you seem like a genuinely fun guy in real life.

    2. I must admit the same like EV! What a shock! As short as a few months ago, I would still be looking for a fight. I guess I slowly mellowed out.

    3. Dear EV and Paul. moi aussi.

      And Rad Trad is to be blamed for this attitude. Rhetorically, he rubs people the right way and he sets a great example.

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