From a reader comes an interesting question.
Given that – as I believe – we will be having more and more to do with followers of SSPX chapels, especially as Summorum Pontificum gets better traction, this person’s question deserves some attention:
We attend an SSPX parish every other week and our local OF every other week – we are very attached to the traditional rites of the church but are not comfortable missing mass when there is no EF available.
Our oldest child (7) received her 1st communion and confession with the SSPX this spring and has received both sacraments since then in our local OF parish and at other OF and EF masses since her 1st.
This weekend our local priest confronted me, asked where my daughter had received the sacraments, and responded that she had received the sacraments invalidly, he shouldn’t be giving her communion and would have to stop unless we remedied the problem.
The problems he stated were: 1) the eucharist is invalid with the SSPX [He is wrong about that. It is valid but illicit.] (he said they were "protestant") and 2) she was unable to receive (1st time???) out of his jurisdiction without his permission. [Wellll....] He had spoken to the bishop about the situation specifically and Bishop had agreed. [?] His only suggestion was that we go through the parish training materials.
As far as I can tell the parents are the primary teachers of the faith (so the training materials cannot be an impediment the the eucharist) – we homeschool and have used the St Joseph’s and Baltimore Catechisms. She also has received at least several valid communions and confessions by now by anyone’s account. Obviously I could add a lot more detail and history, but my questions are:
1) can my daughter be denied communion?
2) can you recall or point me to something written from the Vatican that clarifies that SSPX masses/communions (if not confessions) are at least valid (although not preferred), and
3) is it true that without permission 1st communion and confession cannot be received outside of one’s hometown parish – if not true can you please point out why not.
Considering what I have learned the SSPX masses and holy eucharist are valid and the priest is asking us to 1) deny that validity or 2) stop receiving the sacraments at the OF because he would refuse our daughter. I don’t really like either option.
I am glad you take your responsibility as a parent seriously.
I consulted a canonist whom I trust on this. Here is the answer sent back, which I have only slightly edited.
Once a Catholic has been admitted to the Eucharist, he (or in this case, she) cannot be refused (c. 912) without the application of a canonical penalty, (and according to c. 1323, a child under the age of 16 cannot be subject to a canonical penalty), unless there is a determination that the person is "obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin. (c. 915). I don’t think the pastor would want to go there.
Reception of First Communion is not a juridic act – there is no obligation to receive the Eucharist the first time, or any time, from the pastor, nor does he have any specific authority to forbid his parishioners from receiving their First Communion outside of his parish. The pastor does have the right, under canon 914, to "exercise vigilance so that children who have not attained the use of reason or whom he judges are not sufficiently disposed do not approach holy communion." Yet the correspondent is correct that the obligation of preparing children for the Eucharist falls primarily on the shoulders of the parents.
While it is true that priests of the SSPX do not have the faculty to validly hear confessions, there is no obligation for anyone to make their First Confession – or any confession – to their pastor, or in their own parish. The young lady’s first attempted confession was invalid, but it seems that she has subsequently confessed to a priest with faculties, so I would not have scruples about the status of her soul.
The pastor does seem to be taking his job seriously – and is warning and cautioning his subjects (perhaps a bit too zealously) about the danger of approaching priests in a state of impaired communion for the Mass and the sacraments. It was imprudent of the parents to encourage their child to receive the sacraments (invalidly insofar as the confession is concerns, and illicitly insofar as the Eucharist is concerned) at the SSPX chapel. The pastor has the obligation of protecting the faithful from error and correcting them when they stray (c. 529). The faithful have the obligation of maintaining communion with the Church (c. 209), and while the desire to worship according to the traditional form of the liturgy is commendable, attending biweekly would seem to be imprudent – and receiving the Eucharist there even more so.
The pastor’s suggestion that the child go through the parish sacramental preparation program is not an undue burden for him to place on the parents – provided that the child not be denied the Eucharist to which she has already been admitted during the time it takes for her to go through the program.
I think this is a measured and correct response.