I got a question via e-mail:
If, on a given day, I have access to Mass at a Novus Ordo Church, but am attached to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, assuming I have no access to a Mass offered by an incardinated priest, can I (for my spiritual benefit) assist at an SSPX chapel even though the priest is suspended a divinis?
Here is my position. Yes, and no. That is not a waffle. I make some distinctions.
Let’s be clear about something. If you attend Mass at an SSPX or other chapel not in union with the Holy See and the local bishop, you can fulfill your Sunday or Holy Day obligation. The consecration is valid, though illicit.
There are situations in which people don’t have access to a Catholic priest in good standing for the sacraments. One obstacle can be physical distance: it would be unreasonably difficult to travel to a place where Mass is offered licitly. Another obstacle might be, though this is a little fuzzier, moral: the way Mass is celebrated is so bad that you truly can’t stand it, or there is some personal reason why going to that church would be too painful, and so forth. In that case, for one’s spiritual good, going to another place and even receiving Communion might have some justification.
I want to be clear: I won’t recommend going to a chapel of a group not recognized by the bishop or Holy See. I won’t say that, under normal circumstances, a person should seek sacraments from a priest not in good standing. At the same time, to say a person who otherwise could never participate at the older Mass he deeply longs for must never darken the door of an illicit chapel is just plain wrong. I know there have been some discussions about this lately in the blogosphere and one prominent priest is taking a very hard position on this issue. This is an old question, however.
My solution would be that you could attend even an illicit Mass, though I would hope with some restraint, but that you should not receive Communion. You should receive at your normal parish, if you are not impeded from going there for serious reasons, even moral reasons. Also, you are obliged to support financially your legitimate parish and the legitimate clergy in good standing. That is a commandment of the Church. The obligation of financial support does not extend to a chapel not in union with the bishop and Holy See, even though helping an impoverished suspended priest could be wonderful an act of mercy (have done that myself on occasion): that work of mercy does fulfill one’s duty to support the real parish.
I repeat: If it is simply a matter that you prefer the older Mass to the newer, but in all honesty the newer Mass is being celebrated as it ought to be, then I think you should receive Communion at your normal parish and not at an illicit chapel, even if you even regularly attend the older Mass there. I am not saying don’t go to those older Masses. I simply think that under normal circumstances one should stick to the legitimate parish and receive Communion there. Even if the Novus Ordo Mass is just tolerable, one should rather receive Communion there rather than in a place not in unity with the bishop and Holy See. If you don’t really have to go to that illicit chapel, then don’t go. If you do, then exercise important restraint.
Our personal preferences are important, and we do have the right to a Mass celebrated as it ought to be and with reverence. The importance of ecclesial unity, however, is also very important. The legality of the Mass must be a factor in your decision. I would also suggest that suffering in this matter can have spiritual benefits. You know the old phrase: "Offer it up."
In any of these cases in which one decides to attend an illicit chapel, I think one’s conscience had better be pretty clear. "I want it my way or not at all!" is not a good approach. God cannot be fooled.
In 1995 the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" wrote:
The Masses [SSPX priests] celebrate are also valid, but it is considered morally illicit for the faithful to participate in these Masses unless they are physically or morally impeded from participating in a Mass celebrated by a Catholic priest in good standing (cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 844.2). The fact of not being able to assist at the celebration of the so-called "Tridentine" Mass is not considered a sufficient motive for attending such Masses.
What I wrote, above, is in clear harmony with this.
Some one at Free Republic said I wrote this in response to what Brian Mershon wrote in an article taking Fr. Scott Newman to task on this subject. I did not. This should have been apparent to anyone bothering actualy to read this entry’s first words. I wrote this in response to a question put to me by e-mail. I was aware that there was a flap about this going on, but I had not been following it wil great attention.