From a reader:
My cousin is soon to be married in a SSPX church, a church which his family has been attending for twenty years, since he was in fourth grade. I read on a Catholic website that such a wedding was not valid or even licit, and that it was not a lawful marriage. Is this all true and correct? In their current situation, what would make such a marriage valid? Would the marriage be valid if it were held in a Catholic chapel and the ceremony performed by a priest who is diocesan approved?
Furthermore, does my family have the obligation to inform my relatives of the dangerous situation into which they are entering? They typically dismiss any opposition on their chosen way of life, and are quite adamant in believing that they are doing the right thing.
All sacraments must have proper matter and form in order to be valid. For a marriage to be licit and valid, recognized by such as the Church, there must be a minister who witnesses the marriage for the Church as a part of the proper form. The minister is generally a bishop, priest or deacon, but sometimes permission can be given to a lay person to witness the marriage. But, the fact remains that for the marriage to be valid and licit there must be, as part of the form, an authorized witness.
SSPX priests are suspended a divinis from the moment of their ordination. They do not have faculties from proper authorities to witness marriages, nor can those faculties be assumed. Thus, the marriages they witness are not licit or valid. They would have to be validated by the Church.
However, they might be entering a lawful marriage, in the sense that the SSPX priest could very well be registered with the state and could legally witness a civil marriage. As a matter of fact, some ex-priests do a rent-a-priest thing because they are still legally registered with the state. Their marriages would be civilly legal, but not valid or licit – just as those of the SSPX priest.
Does "your family" have the obligation to inform your relatives? I cannot answer that. You stated that they tend to ignore what they are told. You said that your cousin has been attending this chapel for decades. This is their world view. They are rooted in it.
As a result, would having a talk with them do any good? Would it do harm? Would it drive them farther from your ability to influence them for the better? Would they be easier or harder to help back into unity with the Church if you told them this or avoided their wedding?
I cannot answer that for you.
In the meantime, I am sure that they are trying to do the right thing as they see it. Their problem is a problem, but it is not necessarily one of faith or of commitment.
Patience is very important. Kindness is going to be the key. So many families have been divided by this thing some people call a "schism"…. though we are avoiding that word these days. Card. Castrillon, President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, has been stating that the SSPX is not in schism and we have to go with that.
Try to find the way that will help to heal rather than making a point with the result of greater division.