This question came up in a comment under another entry.
Some SSPX priests and some of the people in the pew have doubted the validity of the new rite of Ordination. Is this a block? Are the priests who hold these ideas and their congregations deviating from official SSPX statements in this regard?
God bless all of us and I really do hope my brothers and sisters in the SSPX and all of trads will be truly reconciled soon.
As do I, but a great deal of humility will be needed before that will happen.
To your question.
I don’t believe many of the priest members of the SSPX, or even their bishops (though I am not sure about Williamson) would say that the post-Conciliar reformed rites for ordination are invalid. Some probably would. I recall years ago a priest of my acquaintance who skipped from his diocese to join the SSPX was conditionally re-ordained, which was a pretty serious problem. But I believe that to be an aberration. At least I hope it was.
It strikes me that they would hold to the position laid out by the late Michael Davies in his book Order of Melchisedech: Defense of the Catholic Priesthood, which I think might be out of print.
Davies points out that the new rites, or rather the rites as they were issued by Paul VI, were in many ways flawed. There was not adequate explicit expression of the meaning of the rite, exactly what was being conferred (the power the forgive sins, bless, transubstantiate bread and wine). The idea is that a rite should express clearly what it means to accomplish. That is to say that the ordaining bishop must have the intention to confer what the Church intends to confer. That is facilitated and made explicit in the rite itself, by word and gesture.
John Paul II reworked the rites in 1990, reinserting into the rites some elements that had been removed in order to make clear what the rites were doing. I was probably the first man in the world ordained with that book as a deacon by Augustin Card. Mayer, now the oldest cardinal in the world, and then later I was ordained a priest with it by the same John Paul II.
However, even though Mr. Davies – now sorely missed – said that Paul VI’s rites were flawed, and I think he was right – they were not so flawed as to be invalid.
The idea is this. The bishops who were doing the ordaining were trained in an era in which what they were doing was very clear. They knew what the rite intended to confer even if that wasn’t manifestly expressed in its entirely in the rite. The rite was sufficiently clear, if not completely, and the Church and bishops knew what they were doing.
However, Mr. Davies rang an alarm bell, and rightly so. I am not saying that he is directly responsible for the reworking of the rites of ordination by John Paul II, but I think he may have contributed to and shaped the discussion.
The problem – and it was a grave grave grave one – was this: What will happen decades in the future when, after decades of really lousy theological training in seminaries and squishy theology in universities, et al., bishops do not have a clear idea of who a priest is or what he does in the Church? Can he possibly have the intention to do what the Church wants if those things are not explicitly laid out in the rites? That would call into serious question the validly of the ordination. The ordaining bishop would not have the proper intention to ordain as the Church intends.
Thus, it was of critical importance to make sure the new rites had those elements.
Anyone who has been to ordinations with the new post-Conciliar rites and also the older pre-Conciliar rites will know what I am talking about. Even if you saw the FSSP ordinations in Lincoln, NE on EWTN and have also seen ordinations with the new rite, you will see instantly that they are different in many respects.
The new rite ordinations are valid, without question in the Latin form of the 1990 revision by John Paul II. But I think we have to admit that the older form of the rites more clearly expresses what the Church intends.
So, in short, I think that most of the SSPX priests, at least the smart ones, will understand that the new rites are valid, just as the Novus Ordo is valid. However, I think they would be very concerned about them.
Final note. I mentioned Michael Davies.
I can’t help but think that Michael Davies, a great gentleman who died a couple years ago, would have strongly supported the gesture of the Holy See made to the SSPX.
I met Michael Davies and remember what a tremendous bulldog he was on points he was convinced about. However, you could have an amicable discussion with him and, if your arguments were good, he would shift his position. Also, he was careful not to go over the top with his rhetoric and, when something was pointed out to him that was too harsh, he would make changes.
I think Michael Davies – sorely missed today – would have been thrilled by the election of Pope Benedict, Summorum Pontificum and this recent gesture of the Holy Father to resolve the divisions that sadly wound the Church.