From a reader (edited):
I wanted to ask you about attendance at relative’s ordination. My relative is going to be ordained a priest for the SSPX.
We have not gone to the weddings which have been in the Society, only to the receptions. This is of course not understood by our relatives. Half of them attend the Society chapels, and the other half are average American Catholics.
We would like to go if we can, to this ordination. However, it is our understanding that while the excommunications have been lifted, the priests and bishops are still suspended, and that attending Mass with them would be like it has been.
Finally, if we cannot go to the ordination, can we go to the first Mass, and should we give him a present?
These are always hard questions because I never know the dynamics of the family, etc.
In general it is best not to attend weddings which are clearly contrary to the Church’s teachings and disciplines about marriage. Attendance indicates approval. Ordinations are much the same.
On the other hand, sometimes the dynamics of a family are such that great harm can be done by not attending. Sometimes you risk losing the good influence you might have to bring people over to the right side of things over time.
Many people simply can’t understand these days why it would make a difference if you attend or not – that is how deeply rooted relativism is now. Twenty years ago, it was easier to explain – not easy, just easier. On the other side, with a few of the attendees of the SSPX chapels, some will look down their ever so traditional noses at you because they, after all, are the true defenders of Tradition, blah blah blah, never mind that this is a matter of your conscience. They would question if you should go to a legitimate ordination in the newer Rite by the local bishop.
That said, if you think that your not attending would cause serious harm to this ordinand, then you can go.
On the other hand, if this guy is being ordained for the SSPX then in all fairness he should tell you not to go! That is what his moral theology formation would suggest to him, though he would also try to reason as I am if his head is screwed on in the right direction!
But I suspect that it is the family you are more worried about.
If you choose to go to the ordination, I would not receive Communion. Some people would say you should, but you are asking me. I say well… you can… but I think it best that you don’t.
Surely you can go to the reception and give him a gift. You can go to the first Mass, but I would not receive Communion. You fulfill your obligation if the first Mass is a Sunday or Holy Day of Obligation.
On another point from a different angle. I don’t think it is necessary wrong to want to attend an ordination from a point of view of curiosity. Yes, it is sacred event and not merely the stuff of curiositas. Still, it is okay to attend an ordination if you have never been to one before. I think it is a good idea for people to have seen an ordination in the older Roman Rite. I would prefer – as with all the sacraments – that they be licit.
So, there are many factors here. Search your heart according to your circumstances. I tend to suggest the path of kindness in these situations when it is really unclear what must be done.
Perhaps you might let me know what you chose and how it went.
I will close the com box on this. Otherwise this will descend into knuckle-headed grandstanding. Most reasonable people are, by now, bored to tears by the usual "Am NOT! Are TOO!" discussions that erupt.
People can send e-mail and, if I think it opportune, I might post some of them.