The distinguished canonist Ed Peters, on his blog In The Light Of The Law, has opined about the illicit ordinations performed by the SSPX.
This is timely especially because of the tensions in Germany between the bishops in that conference and the SSPX. The Holy See wants to reconcile the SSPX and bring it into closer and manifest unity with the Bishop of Rome while the bishops in Germany seem determined to alienate the group so as to drive a wedge and keep it out of unity.
Here is Peters on the issue of the SSPX’s ordinations, with my emphases and comments.
Three points on the recent SSPX ordinations
There really isn’t any "news" associated with the recent SSPX ordinations in Minnesota–and there is certainly nothing surprising about them–though three comments seem in order. [Remember that the SSPX's American seminary is located in Winona, MN.]
First, contrary to some reports, the Catholic Church does recognize these ordinations, [that is, they are valid] by which we must understand, though, that 13 more men have taken the priesthood of Christ illegally from bishops acting in a schismatic manner. [Peters does not say that they are in schism.] While there is no excommunication associated with such priestly ordinations per se (as there is for episcopal ordinations contrary to 1983 CIC 1382), objectively speaking, participation in these ceremonies was still gravely sinful. [And the priests are suspended from the moment they are ordained. They may not function as priests for the Church. The power that comes from ordination is not enough. The Church must permit the use of that power.]
Second, any comments that I might have offered concerning excommunication for (what seem clearly to be) new acts of schism under 1983 CIC 1364 seem pre-empted by Rome’s gratuitous lifting of the excommunications against SSPX leadership last January. Indeed, I am hard-pressed to think of any canons that Rome appears willing to enforce against the SSPX. [That is in itself an interesting point.]
But these two points suggest an ironic Third: the fewer sacramental acts that Rome defends against SSPX appropriation, the more the SSPX seems to resemble the Orthodox Churches and a few other groups–Rome recognizes the validity of their orders, too, but (per 1983 CIC 1) it does not attempt to impose canonical penalties on them for conferring those orders outside of its communion. [Interesting.]
I thought lifting the SSPX excommunications was meant to bring them closer to Catholic unity; instead, it seems to confirm their drifting more distant.
Time will tell.
I am sure a lot of fans of the SSPX out there will object to Mr. Peters’ observations, but he has some good points… and from the point of view of a canonist.
I suppose we will now have comments about the mythical "emergency powers", argument.