Explaining the Year of Mercy “abortion forgiveness faculty”

italian confessional pilgrimsFor the Year of Mercy the Holy Father has given to all priests the faculty to absolve from the censure that is incurred by the crime (not just sin) of successfully procuring an abortion.  This has created a bit of discussion and speculation.

NB: In most dioceses – in fact, I think all – in these USA, priests have this faculty already.  There are some places in the world where this is not the case.

The law says that diocesan bishops can lift the censure of excommunication if it is incurred (and there are precise criteria required to incur the censure of excommunication).  However, the law says that diocesan bishops can delegate their authority to confessors (priests with the faculty to receive sacramental confessions) to lift the censure.  Remember that procuring an abortion is both a sin and a crime.  Forgiving the sin is one step and forgiving or lifting the censure is another step.

Why would the lifting of the excommunication be reserved to a bishop?  Why are some censures reserved?  To teach.  There are some sins and crimes that are more serious than others.  By reserving some censures to a bishop, or to the Holy See itself, the Church is teaching about the gravity of those sins.

Abortion is more serious than, say, defrauding a worker of his wage.  Therefore a bishop, not just a simple priest, is involved (directly or through the intermediary of a confessor) with the penitent’s reconciliation with God, Church, neighbor and himself.

Some sins and crimes strike at the very heart of the Church and her mission. Some are so damaging that they are reserved not to a bishop but to the Holy See itself. For example, throwing away or selling the Blessed Sacrament or giving it to someone for evil purposes is a crime (not just a sin) that incurs a censure that not even a diocesan bishop can lift on his own authority.  The confessor must ask the Holy See’s Apostolic Penitentiary (which handles internal forum matters) for the faculty to lift the censure.  Breaking the Seal of Confession is another such crime that strikes at the very heart of the Church.  Consecrating a bishop without permission from the Roman Pontiff is another such crime.

But I am now going beyond the scope of the interview I want you to hear.

For more on the Year of Mercy and the abortion issue, take a few minutes to listen to an interview at Vatican Radio that my friend Chris Well did with a professor at the Pontifical University “Sacro Cuore” in Rome, Fr. Robert Gahl.

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Posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, GO TO CONFESSION, Our Catholic Identity, Year of Mercy | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

More about this whole Pope Francis, SSPX lack of faculties, Year of Mercy confessions thing

More needs to be said about this whole Pope Francis, SSPX lack of faculties, Year of Mercy confessions thing.

As I wrote before, the Pope, in his letter to Archbp. Fisichella, did NOT say that the priests of the SSPX will have the faculty to absolve.

Yes, yes, it can be argued that, if the faithful can have their sins validly absolved by an SSPX priest, then – somehow or other – the Holy Father has in effect granted the faculty to absolve.  But that’s not how the Holy Father framed it.

Frankly, I forecast that sometime soon there will be an additional document, more juridical in nature, clarifying precisely what His Holiness wants.  In such a document I suspect the faculty would be granted… but that is only speculation on my part.

In the meantime, we have to work with what he wrote in that letter to Archbp. Fisichella.

To recap:

NB: The faithful can go to the SSPX priests for confession. He didn’t explicitly say that the SSPX priests will have faculties to hear their confessions.  It seems like a nit-picky detail but – for now, at least – it isn’t.

He said…

A final consideration concerns those faithful who for various reasons choose to attend churches officiated by priests of the Fraternity of St Pius X. This Jubilee Year of Mercy excludes no one. From various quarters, several Brother Bishops have told me of their good faith and sacramental practice, combined however with an uneasy situation from the pastoral standpoint. I trust that in the near future solutions may be found to recover full communion with the priests and superiors of the Fraternity. In the meantime, motivated by the need to respond to the good of these faithful, through my own disposition, I establish 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.

So, what is the Pope doing?  It’s hard to know, since the paragraph isn’t written in clear juridical language.

Let’s drill into it.

If it isn’t an explicitly granting of a faculty, it also isn’t a dispensation from having the faculty. Dispensations are usually given for single acts.

This is more like a privilege, which remains in effect for the time described or until they are rescinded.  A privilege is like a dispensation, but it has more stability (it lasts longer).  Read about privileges in the 1983 CIC can. 76-84.

It is a privilege not so much for the priests (which is odd) but for the faithful.

Pope Francis has said that this state of affairs, the privilege (my word – it’s not in the Pope’s letter) is in effect for the Year of Mercy, which has specific dates.  So, within these dates the state of affairs applies to the faithful who want to go to the SSPXers for confession.  Then it stops.

Considering just the letter (and not some future clarifying document that doesn’t yet exist) the priests of the SSPX are not granted the faculty to hear confessions (even though the effect is that they can receive sacramental confessions).  Francis seems to have provided a favor to the faithful… a way for the faithful to have their sins forgiven licitly and validly in spite of the law, in a way that is beyond (praeter) or contrary (contra) the law.

At the end of the time period of the privilege (the close of the Year of Mercy) the priests of the SSPX will still not have faculties and the faithful will no longer be able to go to them for licit and, most importantly, valid absolution.

I hope this favor, this privilege (if that is what this is) doesn’t create massive confusion.

WHEREIN FR. Z will now be a priest to SSPX followers: 

Can. 83 says that “privileges cease if, in the judgment of the competent authority, circumstances are so changed in the course of time that it becomes harmful or its use illicit.”

So… I recommend that SSPX followers and the SSPX priests not abuse this favor.  They could abuse this favor, or create confusion around it, by distorting its meaning.  The Pope has done you a favor. Don’t blow it.  Say “Thank you!”… often!

And even though His Holiness might have spoken in a seemingly unfriendly way in off the cuff remarks about Spiritual Bouquets, I’ll bet that every time he receives one they warm his heart.  How could they not?

SSPXers! Organize and send Spiritual Bouquets to Pope Francis with expressions of thanks!

Back to the post…

To recap again…

I think that – as things stand – we are looking a grant of some kind of favor or privilege that runs either beyond or contrary to the law.  A canonist could help with this, but it strikes me as unusual for a privilege to be granted to a vague group, namely, “those who approach” the SSPX for confession.  Can. 76 says that privileges are granted to physical or juridic persons.  The followers of the SSPX do not fall into that category.  “Those who approach” seem to me not to be a juridic person.

Another thing, the Pope says “through my own disposition”.  Could it be that were he to die or resign before Holy Year or its end, this privilege might cease?  Okay… I’m getting in over my head a little with that last part.

Anyway you look at it, however, it is clear that SSPX priests do not have the faculty to receive sacramental confessions and to validly absolve unless the competent authority gives them the faculty.

Finally, the more I think about this, the more I see what Francis did as a gesture of real concern for the SSPX priests and their followers.

He is truly concerned for them and their souls.  The concession in the letter might be confusing in the juridical sense, but his pastoral and paternal intent is clear.

Consider that this favor is granted in a letter in which the Holy Father was also giving to all priests the faculty to lift the censure incurred by the crime (not just sin) of abortion.  Priests of the SSPX don’t have any competent authority other than the Holy Father to give them the faculty to lift censures like this!  Apparently, in this two step process, they will now have that ability.

And if this is the case for the Year of Mercy, then why not beyond the Year of Mercy?

Even though we are scratching our heads, we are doing so with a smile.

The moderation queue is ON.

Posted in GO TO CONFESSION, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, SSPX, The Drill, Year of Mercy | Tagged , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Recently Received Items

The diligent John of Leaflet Missal, in the wake of the great Seminarian Biretta Project (ongoing) has sent me a mighty tool of the New Evangelization.

Behold a “scruple spoon”.


I lacked this weapon of demon-terrorizing in my liturgical arsenal. Thanks to John.

I am still getting notes from seminarians. EVERYONE! Call John and get a biretta for a seminarians! Click HERE


“But Father! But Father!”, some libs are puling, “That’s a huge ladle of a thing!  How big is your ‘precious chalice’?  Does hating Vatican II mean that you are scrupulous, too?  HA HA!”

Nope, it means none of those things.  It does mean, however, that I adhere to what Unreconstructed Ossified Manualists hold: pour too much water into the wine and you have invalid matter for consecration.  We learn from Tanquerey (that tonic for the soul), that “quinta pars aquae ad vinum corrumpendum non sufficiat … a fifth part of water isn’t enough to break [the substance of] the wine”, and thus render it invalid matter for consecration.

Fathers, if you don’t use much wine, which is my practice, you had better be careful with that water!

So, the careful priest, and I am careful, has the option of a little spoon, often called a “scruple spoon”.

As far as the size of the spoon is concerned, here are a couple objects to add perspective, namely, a .45 ACP snap cap and a packet of hot sauce from Chick-fil-A.


You “dunk” the spoon into the narrow neck of the cruet to fish up some water.


You never have to worry.  One less thing.

One of you readers and frequent donors here, MH, sent a bunch of cards she had made with the Apostolic Pardon/Blessing printed in Latin and English.  They are wallet-sized.  She said I should give them to priests…. and I will!



More about the Apostolic Benediction HERE.

Thanks MH!

Posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Just Too Cool, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000 | Tagged , , | 16 Comments

A note about the necessary faculty priests must have licitly and validly to absolve sins

12_08_16_confessionI want to clear up something related to the upcoming grant from Pope Francis (I repeat… upcoming, and not yet) to SSPX priests to absolve the sins of penitents who come to them.

Some people are claiming that the SSPX already validly absolve sins because of their mystical “supplied jurisdiction”.  No.  Sorry.  They don’t.  They don’t because they do not have the faculty – under normal circumstances (that’s important) – to absolve validly.  The Church’s Lawgiver (the Pope) included a canon in the 1983 Code of Canon Law (for the Latin Church) that a priest must have (in addition to valid ordination) the faculty – the Church’s permission – to absolve.  No ticky, no laundry.

So, how does one get the “ticky”?

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 (i.e., diocesan bishops, religious superiors).

The priest can be given the faculty either by competent authority (i.e., his diocesan bishop, religious superior) or by the law itself.  How does the law give the faculty?

This is where can. 976 comes in.

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.

Imagine this scene:

A person is dying.  In the crowd gathered there are five priests.  One is a diocesan priest in good standing with full faculties of his diocese who is pretty conservative but doesn’t know how to say the traditional Mass.  One is a traddy diocesan priest from another diocese who has faculties in his own diocese, but here in Tall Tree Circle in the Diocese of Black Duck he does not because the local bishop wrote explicitly to tell him he may not hear confessions because he’s a trad.  One is a religious priest, the dying man’s brother-in-law, who is still on the active roles, but he is presently suspended because he is trying to figure out if he is a man or really a woman trapped in a man’s body.  One is an married ex-priest who has just gotten out of jail.  One is a priest of the SSPX.

QUAERITUR: Which priest has the faculty validly and licitly to absolve the dying fellow?

ANSWER: All of them.

Even if there is a priest in good standing with the faculty present, all of the priests there have the faculty because of the circumstance.  The law itself gives even the questioning priest and the SSPX priest the faculty in that circumstance.  It doesn’t make any difference that there is a priest in good standing there.  The dying person may, perhaps, wish to confess to the SSPXer instead of the “Novus Ordo” priest from the diocese.  The dying man may wish to confess to his brother-in-law, because he knows him.  The dying man may wish to confess to the SSPXer because he know that he knows the traditional form of absolution.  He might want the married ex-priest because he, too, is a Cubs fan.  Whatever.  All three priests present have the faculty, but for different reasons.

Imagine another scene:

A ship is sinking in the ocean.  Two priests are watching as people are drowning and being eaten by sharks.  One is a priest in good standing in his diocese with faculties to hear confessions.  The other is an ex-SSPX priest, validly but illicitly ordained but now out of the SSPX because of drug trafficking and prostitution charges.  Which one can validly absolve?

You know the answer before I ask.

In the case of a person who is dying, the law itself gives the faculty even to a “laicized” ex-priest (or an SSPX priest) even though there is a shiny clean priest in good standing present.

Another scene:

On one side of the street is St. Progressiva – aka “Jesus Our Fluffy Friend Catholic Community” where Father “Just call me ‘Bruce'” in his tie-dyed tee has finished hanging up the felt butterflies in the gym cum worship space before the illicit and probably invalid Form 3 “general absolution” service he has scheduled in advance for his faith community.  He is musing about the homily Sr. Randi gave during liturgy that morning, cherishing her insights about global warming and wishing that he weren’t part of the oppressive patriarchal which caused it.  A person comes up to him and asks him to hear her confession.  He scratches his scruffy graying beard as she hands him a card with the actual form of absolution written on it.  She asks him to use that because, the last time she was there during the 15 minutes of confession schedule last Lent, he had composed his own form of absolution.  He hesitates.  “What would Francis do?”, she asks.  He scratches his beard some more, shrugs and, since the butterflies have made him happy, hears the woman’s confession, gives her a penance and absolution… “just like the old days!”  He has a twinge as that tiny little Catholic voice in him suggests that he did it right this time, but it is soon drowned out as the pop-combo (of his contemporaries lead by Sr. Randi) starts warming up.   After all, no one believes in that anymore.

On the other side of the street, in the converted ex-Lutheran SSPX church now called St. Marcel the Courageous, newly-ordained Fr. Rocco Firm has motivated a group of happy girls and their mothers to scrape gum off the undersides of pews from 20 years ago.  He straightens his biretta and gets into the newly constructed traditional-style confessional, complete with curtains and sliding doors and fixed grates.  There is a line.  They are well-catechized and up-to-date about the issues and news of the Church and the SSPX.  None of them are in danger of death.  All of them could have walked across the street or have driven over to Msgr. Zuhlsdorf’s parish St. Ipsidipsy or over to Fr. Guido at St. Fidelia.  No one is being denied the opportunity to go to confession to a regular priest.  Fr. Firm hears one person after another and says the traditional formula of absolution.

QUAERITUR:  Which priest has validly absolved?  “Bruce” or Fr. Firm?

ANSWER:  You know the answer.

Were the people at St. Marcel validly absolved?  No.

Were the people at St. Marcel forgiven their sins by God? Perhaps.  We don’t know.  I’ll bet most of them made pret’near perfect Acts of Contrition after a good examination of conscience.

Was the woman who went to the aging hippy across the street validly absolved?  Yes.  She might have had to hold her nose because of the smell of the bong, but, yes.

Will the people who go to the Form Three service across the street be validly absolved?  Probably not.  General Absolution cannot be scheduled, since it can be given only in cases of grave necessity.  Can. 961 establishes that a grave necessity exists (outside of the clear case of danger of death) when…

“given the number of penitents, there are not enough confessors available properly to hear the individual’s confessions within an appropriate time, so that without fault of their own the penitents are deprived of sacramental grace or of Holy Communion for a lengthy period of time.”

All those conditions would need to be present for general absolution to be given licitly.  Telling people to “come back next week” would NOT deprive them of sacramental grace for a “lengthy period of time,” which most manualists – and we like manuals – would say is a month or more. Furthermore, the Motu proprio of 7 April 2002 Misericordia Dei, 5 clarifies that “judgment as to whether there exists the conditions required by canon 961 is [Note bene] not a matter for the confessor, but for the diocesan bishop who can determine cases of such necessity in light of the criteria agreed upon with other members of the Episcopal Conference.”  Moreover, you must make a regular confession as soon as possible after a Form 3, or the second time is invalid (except in danger of death, of course).

During the Year of Mercy the priests of the SSPX will NOT have the faculty from the law itself (as in the danger of death) to absolve validly, but the faithful will have the privilege of going to them anyway.


And go to a priest with faculties who is NOT giving general absolution.

Yes… the moderation queue is ON.

Dura lex, sed lex.

Anyway… the real point, amidst the digressions, is that in the case of the danger of death any validly ordained priest – active or inactive, in good standing or not – can validly absolve even if a priest who is canonically squared away is present.

Posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, GO TO CONFESSION, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Priests and Priesthood, SSPX | Tagged , , , , , | 16 Comments

New lenses for the Pope

I can’t say I saw this one coming.

The Pope went to an optical shop – I am not making this up – the Pope went to an optical shop the Via del Babuino (that’s a street in Rome) to get new glasses.

He is being fitted in this photo, which came in via Twitter.

Do you suppose that the liberal MSM will punish His Holiness for getting designer named glasses?  After all, they savaged Pope Benedict for his “Prada” shoes… which were from a Roman cobbler, and not Prada after all.

Anyway, I am glad that the Roman Pontiff will have a better view of things during his upcoming trip to these USA.

Magoo glasses

Posted in Lighter fare | Tagged | 9 Comments

LEGO MASS SET BRICKS (yes… Legos for Mass!)

I’ll bet some of you played with Legos when you were young.  I’ll bet some of you still play with Legos.  I’ll bet some of you played Mass when you were young.  I hope none of you are playing Mass now… unless it’s with Legos.

There is now an easier way to play Mass with Legos..

A company called Domestic Church Supply has Legos – real Legos – for Mass.

Mass legos

Being Legos, you can put the priest on the correct side of the altar.  Their blurb:

Fr. Leopold is on a mission to share the good news of Jesus Christ with minifigures everywhere. [Father needs a blog.] Sporting his brand new clerics and a friendly face, he is ready to preach the gospel and bring the sacraments to his people.

Featuring 171 genuine LEGO® bricks, three modified bricks (his Roman collar, the sacramentary and the lectionary were printed after they left the factory) and a set of four vestments (a green chasuble for Ordinary Time, red and white for feast days, and purple for Advent and Lent) this set will provide hours of imaginative play. [NO BLACK?!?]

The included 28-page full-color instruction guide makes building the altar, ambo, credence table, presider’s chair [aka sedilia] and tabernacle a snap.

Put the lectionary, sacramentary, chalice, paten, hosts, cruets and lavabo dish in place, get Fr. Leopold vested and he’s ready to celebrate Mass. Congregation not included.

This model isn’t sponsored, authorized or endorsed by the Lego Group. The design, kit assembly and instructions are a Domestic Church Supply Company exclusive.

Because of the limited availability of certain Lego bricks in this set, quantities are limited.

Due to the overwhelming interest in this product, current delivery times are approximately 4-6 weeks from when you place your order.

We are working hard to reduce delivery times, but these sets are hand assembled and take a significant amount of time to put together.

Speaking of playing Mass… check out this great video of 4 year old Thuan’s liturgical style. ALERT: Thuan – at 4 – has more Latin in his Mass than most priests of the Latin Church, but I digress. I especially enjoyed the ministration of the altar boy at about 8:00 onward. He really makes sure that the corporal is on that altar! “Father Thuan” is not into liturgical abuse. He sticks to the book! Note how he corrects the “reader” at the prayers of the faithful.

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ASK FATHER: Father with dementia “absolved” by Episcopalian

From a reader:

Short, short version: my ailing dad thinks he received (and is satisfied with) absolution from an episcopalian “priest” — do I press the point or trust in the Lord’s Mercy on this one?

My father (70) has been away from the sacraments for at least 35 years and has a new appreciation of his own mortality thanks to a fast-moving form of dementia. He hasn’t slept more than maybe an hour in 5 months, which if you can imagine is affecting his sharpness.


Being so far removed and having to overcome significant family
obstacles to having him “go to confession again” (which he may not have the recall capability or penitence for multiple civil marriages to make a good one) I don’t know if I should just drop it and continue to pray for his reconversion or push as much as I can because there isn’t anything more important for him. I tried to seek counseling from my pastor, whom I love and trust, but much of this happened literally with movers in my house….

Difficult situations call for a great deal of prayer. Dementia is a terrible thing, as it robs people of not only their memories, but also their freedom. Your father’s situation indeed seems to be a difficult one.

The Episcopal priest who heard his confession was not able to give valid absolution. He did some spiritual damage to your father if – knowing that your father is Catholic – he let him think that he was capable of doing so. He gave your father a confidence which he should not have had.

That said, there is probably not a lot that you can do for your father other than pray at this point. You could try to contact the Catholic priest in the area. Explain the situation to him, and ask him to make a home visit. But, if your father is unwilling to go to confession, he can’t be forced to.

If his dementia has advanced to the stage where he can no longer remember his past sins, but is still able to express contrition for the fact that he has sinned, of course, he can confess and be absolved.

By all means, continue to pray for him, pray that he be reconciled, continue to encourage him to seek out a Catholic priest. At some point, however, the decision is left with him.

And I will take this opportunity to address all those out there who haven’t been to confession for a long time…


Just, for the love of God, go while you can.


Posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ACTION ITEM!, GO TO CONFESSION, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000 | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

OBITUARY: Spirit of Vatican II – RIP – 53 years of age

An oldie from the often amusing Eye of the Tiber:

[2014] CINCINNATI, OH- A Solemn High Requiem Mass was held Thursday at St. Martura Church in downtown Cincinnati for the Spirit of Vatican II, aged 52. After suffering a progressively debilitating illness for the last ten years of its life as a new generation of priests re-examined the Council in light of Sacred Tradition, the Spirit of Vatican II passed away quietly in its sleep last Tuesday.

“The Requiem Mass really brought closure to the community,” said 26-year old Father David Flannigan, FSSP, who celebrated the Mass with Deacon Brady Schwartz, 32, and Subdeacon Anthony LaViera, 23. “While the death of the Spirit of Vatican II was certainly expected, we were glad to offer Mass for its repose.”  [I would like to have been the celebrant for that one.  Perhaps I’ll schedule my own.]

“What a beautiful Mass!” commented long-time parishioner Gladys O’Neal. “I hadn’t seen black vestments since I was a little girl. And as much as I love the song On Eagle’s Wings, the Dies Irae sequence really got me thinking about the Four Last Things.”

The Spirit of Vatican II is survived by a dwindling number of aging hippies who dropped out of seminary in the ‘70’s, some faded felt banners, and tambourines presently gathering dust in storage.

Do I hear an “Amen!”?

Posted in Liberals, Lighter fare | Tagged | 21 Comments

How Spirit got there

Poor little Spirit isn’t working anymore (so far as we know), but this is how he got there!

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70th Anniversary of end of WWII

Today was the 70th anniversary of the formal surrender of Japan.  HERE

The instrument of surrender was signed aboard USS Missouri on 2 Sept 1945.


Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu sign Japanese Instrument of Surrender, a  document  signed on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2 1945 in Japan. (AP Photo/pool/Life)

Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu sign Japanese Instrument of Surrender, a document signed on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2 1945 in Japan. (AP Photo/pool/Life)

Also on this day, the Battle of Actium was fought in 31 BC when Octavian bested the fleet of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra.

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