QUAERITUR: parent won’t attend wedding without SSPX priest

From a reader:

My Fiancée’s family is SSPX. Since coming to college she has realized the error in their beliefs, so she is no longer SSPX.

We are planning on getting married next november We would absolutely love to get married with a latin mass but her dad will not come to a mass said by anyone not SSPX. Needless to say we would not have an SSPX priest say our mass.

So, our choices are: get married with only a ceremony, her dad would attend this even when said by a roman catholic priest, or have a mass that some of her family would not attend.

First, I notice that you do not mention either your or her parish priest, the pastor of the parishes or parish you attend now.  If she is no longer attending a chapel of the SSPX, then she must be going to some parish or otherwise approved chapel.  It may be possible, because of the dynamics of her family that you could have the old Mass for the nuptial Mass.  But you have to get involved with the parish priest.  In fact, you have to get involved with the parish priest anyway.

Second, while it is nice to have everyone be happy with everything, that is not why people get married.  You get married because you think it is your vocation and God’s will.  It is not her father’s vocation.

Third, if there is a possibility of a wedding ceremony without a Mass, then perhaps that is the best way to go if you cannot find a priest willing to say the older Mass for you for your wedding.  It may be that the SSPX priest would be willing to attend.

I am sorry that you must go through this sort of thing.  However, you have chosen well to pursue marriage within the bounds, formally, of the Catholic Church.  For a wedding to be licit and valid, the the proper form for marriage must be observed.  Part of the proper form for marriage is having a witness recognized by the Church.  SSPX priests do not have the permission of the Church to witness marriages.  Your local parish priest does, however.

I hope this works out peacefully.

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32 Responses to QUAERITUR: parent won’t attend wedding without SSPX priest

  1. JayneK says:

    To the reader who makes this query:
    If possible make an ally of an SSPX priest. Some of them would be supportive of you marrying with a TLM as your nuptial Mass even if not said by a priest of the Society. If you had such a priest on your side, he might influence your father-in-law-to-be.

    It might also be helpful for you to choose your wording more carefully. Speaking of the SSPX as if it were a different religion than Roman Catholic creates bad feeling. This feeling will not help your personal situation nor does it work towards the reconciliation that is so clearly the goal of the Pope.

  2. Sarto says:

    Father,

    Does this story change in light of the article written by Mr. Brian McCall on the Remnant’s online website yesterday? http://remnantnewspaper.com/Archives/2010-1031-mccall-fellay.htm
    [No. What would have to change is the Church's laws.]

  3. Sedgwick says:

    Concerning the “error in beliefs,” this reader should read this article:

    http://www.remnantnewspaper.com/Archives/2010-1031-mccall-fellay.htm

  4. TheAcolyte says:

    I wanted to bring these important points to attention:
    -Rome stated to the Gabonese bishops that the marriages performed by the SSPX priests are valid (http://sspx.org/discussions/sspx_update.htm#rome_approves)
    -supplied jurisdiction/common error also ensures this (http://sspx.org/MISCELLANEOUS/validity_of_confessions_1.htm)
    -also, the spouses are marrying each other, and this is understood by those who are “married” by an SSPX priest (an “M” form must be signed in recognition of this)
    -even non-SSPX priests (e.g., some FSSP that I know) agree that the marriages in the SSPX’s chapels are legitimate and valid

    [Interesting, if true. I would like a Roman source for that, however and not just one from a newsletter of the SSPX.]

  5. Jason Keener says:

    I give this couple a lot of credit for doing the right thing in seeking out a priest outside of the SSPX who is able to witness marriage vows validly and licitly.

    Having said that, I hope priests of the SSPX will receive their faculties to hear confessions and witness marriage vows soon. After all, the Pope and Cardinal Hoyos have said that the SSPX is technically within the Church and is not in a state of formal schism. Shouldn’t the fact that the SSPX exists within the Church be enough to at least grant them faculties to hear confessions and witness marriages for the sake of souls? It’s an excessive burden that those who attend SSPX chapels have to go through a rigamarole when all they want is access to the sacraments as celebrated for centuries. On the other hand, one wonders how many liberal priests are in good standing and have their faculties yet are more heretical and schismatic than any priest of the SSPX.

    Let’s keep praying for a good result to the doctrinal discussions!

  6. Ioannes Andreades says:

    When my wife and I got hitched, I really wanted it to be at a mass. The idea that the mass anticipates the wedding banquet of the Lamb seemed to make having the wedding during mass a no-brainer. However, I would guess that half of our guests were not Catholic or former Catholics. I’ve grown more and more comfortable with thinking of the Liturgy of the Eucharist as the Mass of the Faithful, and now think that perhaps not having the wedding during the mass would have been a better idea. There are benefits either way, but I might tend to agree with Fr. Z about that it may be good to consider not having the wedding during mass.

  7. Gregory DiPippo says:

    Optime Z.,

    Does this attitude remind you of any particular African heretical sect combatted by our beloved St. Augustine?

  8. Gregory: Why, yes. And the analogy has been used before.

    (He is referring to the Donatists, of course.)

  9. danphunter1 says:

    Sarto,
    What eye-opening article from the “Remnant” you cite.
    I found the following paragraph very powerful, this could also be applied to FSSPX marriages as well:
    “Bishop Fellay demonstrated the application of this “principle of action” in the case of the Society through several examples, most of which have never been previously publicized. First, he mentioned the issue of SSPX confessions. As most Catholics know, there are certain grave sins, the remittance of which is reserved to the Holy See alone. Under Church law if a priest hears the confession of a person who has committed one of these reserved sins, he is obligated to report the matter to the Holy See within thirty days to receive permission to absolve as well as guidance for the imposition of an appropriate penance. His Excellency indicated that from time to time Society priests have heard such confessions, and that, in every case, the required notification was sent to the Holy See. In each of these cases, the response received from the Vatican was that “all was good and licit” and that the permission for the SSPX priest to absolve was granted.”

  10. Jerry says:

    @Sarto – “Does this story change in light of the article written by Mr. Brian McCall on the Remnant’s online website yesterday? ”

    The article on the Remnant web site appears to be strictly Bishop Fellay’s opinions and interpretation, some of which appears to be a bit overreaching Until Rome publicly announces the SSPX has jurisdiction for the sacraments I personally will be staying far away.

  11. Jerry says:

    @danphunter1 – “His Excellency indicated that from time to time Society priests have heard such confessions, and that, in every case, the required notification was sent to the Holy See. In each of these cases, the response received from the Vatican was that “all was good and licit” and that the permission for the SSPX priest to absolve was granted.”

    As I read this, several SSPX priests have been told by Rome that in specific instances their absolutions were valid. The following appears immediately after the portion you quoted:

    “What inference are we to draw from this? Obviously, the Society priests can validly hear confessions. ”

    Yes, they can validly hear confessions — at least under certain circumstances. But this was never really a question, as the CIC makes this quite clear. What we must be careful of is attempting to generalize specific determinations: I don’t think one can validly assume based on what was presented in the article that SSPX priests may always validly hear confessions.

    [The law provides that SSPX priests validly hear confessions when there is danger of death, not under normal circumstances.]

  12. Ceile De says:

    FWIW in your shoes I’d go with the sacrament of marriage according to the usus antiquior without the Mass which is not required in this case. My wife and I were convalidated without a Mass.

  13. Tina in Ashburn says:

    My sympathies to the questioning reader. The same situation occurred in our family: 4 marriages with only one being attended by the opinionated parent. The SSPX was not the issue but the New Mass, and other similar variables.

    Having grown up in an uber-traditionalist mindset myself, I am happy to hear that your finacee understands the real place of the SSPX, just as I learned a better perspective for the New/Old Mass arguments. I am grateful for the traditional formation I received and have been able to integrate most of it with better personal submission to the Holy See. Hopefully you and your fiancee can also benefit in the same way.

    As Father suggests, your choices are the vows without the Mass, the old Mass said by a Latin-riter – and of course the most reverent “new” Mass that can be mustered, perhaps even in Latin.

    Our family member who had the best experience simply told the parent politely: take it or leave it, this how we are getting married, if you can behave yourself, you are welcome. The parent was invited to everything. The family member did not dwell on their grief, rancor or guilt, or trying to get the parent to cooperate. In my experience, these kinds of controlling parents can be rather bullying, have issues with authority, and fold eventually when boundaries are clearly stated.

    May you be blessed and happy!!!

  14. JayneK says:

    My parents did not come to my wedding because of religious reasons. Although it was upsetting at the time, it was not really a disaster. A wedding is just a day, a marriage is a lifetime.

  15. Supertradmum says:

    Thank you, Father, for your clarification. I have been trying to convince my dear SSPX friends that their marriages and confessions are invalid, but I have not had success. Your ideas on how to get around a sticky wicket are insightful and helpful.

  16. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Bishop Fellay takes a particular case and extrapolates that to the entire Society. In particular cases, the Church can grant faculties for valid marriage and absolution, but that does not mean that the canonical requirement of jurisdiction can then just be waved away.

    There are many (ex) Catholic priests who are in Old Catholic chapels, Episcopal and Anglican churches, and various independent chapels. If we now grant carte blanche to the Society priests, then to not be hypocritical we have to recognize as valid marriage any union witnessed by a Catholic priest in the chapel or denomination of his choosing. That would include, of course, those priests who left to get married and have now established their own “marrying” business.

    Be very careful of the pandora’s box you wish to open by waving the wand of jurisdiction over the clergy of your liking.

    As for this particular case, the option no one has mentioned is for the local bishop to grant a “dispensation from form” which would then allow the couple to have their marriage witnessed by the SSPX priest. Thousands of Catholic couples have had this dispensation and have been married even before Protestant ministers with the bishop’s permission, so why not seek the dispensation for a priest of the Society. That will placate the father and yet the couple can continue assisting at an approved Mass later on.

  17. kgurries says:

    I think the fact that SSPX priests have been delegated the authority (presumably from the Penitentiary) to remit sins “reserved to the Holy See” is another positive/hopeful sign in the relations between the SSPX and the Holy See. On the other hand, I agree that this is not an indication that SSPX priest have normal jurisdiction. The Holy Father explained the situation himself in the letter to the Bishops of the world — in the aftermath of the lifting of the excommunications. This is the official position of the Holy Father on the matter (for those that simply choose to take the Pope at his word).
    ========================================================
    “The fact that the Society of Saint Pius X does not possess a canonical status in the Church is not, in the end, based on disciplinary but on doctrinal reasons. As long as the Society does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church. There needs to be a distinction, then, between the disciplinary level, which deals with individuals as such, and the doctrinal level, at which ministry and institution are involved. In order to make this clear once again: until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers – even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty – do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.”
    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/letters/2009/documents/hf_ben-xvi_let_20090310_remissione-scomunica_en.html

    [This isn't quite accurate. For the Latin Church the lifting of some censures is reserved to the Holy See, not the sins. In the Code for the Eastern Church there are two sins described as being reserved to the Holy See, that is, two sins that can only be absolved by recourse to the Holy See (cf. CCEO c. 728. That is not the case with the Latin Church. There are sins which incur penalties, and the penalties are reserved to the Holy See. ]

  18. danphunter1 says:

    Fr Sotelo
    “…the option no one has mentioned is for the local bishop to grant a “dispensation from form” which would then allow the couple to have their marriage witnessed by the SSPX priest.”

    Excellent point!

  19. Tim Ferguson says:

    the local bishop can only grant a dispensation from canonical form if one of the parties to the marriage is not Catholic. If both parties are Catholic, only the Supreme Legislator can grant a dispensation from form.

  20. kgurries says:

    Fr. Z, thanks for the clarification. Perhaps you can comment on the following. It is presented as if the SSPX was granted “permission” to absolve. But maybe that is not really the case. Perhaps what happened in these cases is that the Penitentiary simply lifted any censure applied to the penitent? The story is a little vague and the implications/significance not very clear….

    ==============================================
    “First, he [Bishop Fellay] mentioned the issue of SSPX confessions. As most Catholics know, there are certain grave sins, the remittance of which is reserved to the Holy See alone. Under Church law if a priest hears the confession of a person who has committed one of these reserved sins, he is obligated to report the matter to the Holy See within thirty days to receive permission to absolve as well as guidance for the imposition of an appropriate penance. His Excellency indicated that from time to time Society priests have heard such confessions, and that, in every case, the required notification was sent to the Holy See. In each of these cases, the response received from the Vatican was that “all was good and licit” and that the permission for the SSPX priest to absolve was granted.”

    [I don't know what that means. It occurs to me that the description could be affected either by the language of the OLD Code, no longer in force or by less than clear reporting of what Bp. Fellay said. SSPXers tend not to think in terms of the Code of Canon Law which is actually in force today. Once upon a time there were reserved sinsYou had to have recourse to have the sin forgiven, not just have the censure lifted if you incurred one. But the procedure described seems entirely correct. There are cases in which a confessors hears the confession of a person who committed a sins with a censure that is reserved. In that case, the confessor makes an appointment with the penitent after a reasonable amount of time (to write the letter, send it, get a response back from the Holy See). During that next appointment, the confessor can lift the penalty impose a penance, etc. I have had the occasion write to the Holy See a couple times (Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary) to describe a case in great anonymity, ask for advice and the faculty if opportune. The turn around of their communication was swift! Then I made sure I had that letter with me when hearing confessions until the person showed up. If the Holy See, however, is treating the SSPX priests as if they have faculties validly to hear confessions, that is news to me. If that is the case, I would be curious to know which ecclesiastical authority is giving them faculties. And I'm sorry, "emergency powers" doesn't cut it. The Church's law needs to be followed in this regard. That said, I look forward to the day in which there is no problem about this anymore.]

  21. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Tim Ferguson: I stand corrected. A dispensation from form would not be granted when both parties are Catholic. However, there is another option for a Catholic couple who wishes to contract marriage before an SSPX priest. Namely, the couple could be married in the SSPX chapel, and it would be regarded as invalid. However, the next week, the couple could approach their pastor for a “sanatio in radice” and the bishop would then declare the marriage to be valid without making the couple go through another ceremony.

    The proof of the pudding in regards to the validity of SSPX marriage is this: If a Catholic marries in the SSPX, divorces their spouse, and then petitions the “Novus Ordo” tribunal for an anullment, what will happen?

    The anullment will be immediately granted. It will not be handled as a “formal” case with the drawn out investigations but will be quickly processed on the grounds of “lack of canonical form” (that the SSPX priest did not have jurisdiction).

    I have never heard of even one case where a tribunal hesitated to anull SSPX marriages based on the lack of form. That speaks volumes of where the Church is coming from when the rubber hits the road, so to speak, in regards to whether SSPX have “supplied jurisdiction.”

    In fact, I heard of one case where the SSPX family was so disgusted with their daughter’s marriage, that after the spouses divorced, it was the SSPX spouse, not the “Novus Ordo” Catholic who approached the tribunal and was happy to get a quick anullment based on the lack of form.

  22. Bishop Fellay’s comments are always riddled with hearsay. “The Vatican says…” “We did….” All with no proof. Unfortunately, only once has the Vatican ever called him out on this, back when Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos publicly condemned his misleading statements.

  23. Tina in Ashburn says:

    “However, there is another option for a Catholic couple who wishes to contract marriage before an SSPX priest. Namely, the couple could be married in the SSPX chapel, and it would be regarded as invalid. However, the next week, the couple could approach their pastor for a “sanatio in radice” and the bishop would then declare the marriage to be valid without making the couple go through another ceremony.”

    I’m no expert, but that suggestion seems a bit risky. If the marriage is invalid then the marriage really shouldn’t be consummated until the declaration of validity, right?
    And if either should die before that declaration, in what state is their soul?
    For me, I’d rather not take a path based on presumption of mercy.

  24. kgurries says:

    Patrick, I doubt that Bishop Fellay would intentionally mislead his hearers. At the same time, his talk (or at least the reporting of it) does seem to present the Holy See as internally contradicted and incoherent in its relations with the SSPX. Furthermore, it seems to place the Holy Father and the Curia in opposition to one another on the basic question of the status of the SSPX. Finally, it implies that the Holy Father “does not believe” what he himself writes with respect to the status of the SSPX (Cf. Letter to the Bishops of the World). In short, the talk opens up many more questions than it attempts to resolve.

  25. czemike says:

    It’s not something you’re going to see in the paper or plastered on a billboard but SSPX priests do sometimes request and get faculties for performing weddings but this type of thing is usually kept quiet for obvious reasons. I personally know one couple who had this arrangement.

  26. Jason Keener says:

    Unfortunately, there is evidence that the message from Rome is sometimes very confusing, as Fellay indicates. For example, as Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict criticized the Pauline Missal and the New Calendar in serious ways; however, in Summorum Pontificum and other official documents, the Ordinary Form is presented in glowing terms as if it was beyond reproach. Some theologians are also critical of Pope Benedict’s Caritas in Veritate because they feel it lacks a coherent message resulting from too many people being involved in its drafting. In any event, I wish that Rome would speak more clearly and directly about some of the issues weighing the Church down, but I realize that is a tall order for the Curia, considering so many different personalities are involved. The human side of the Church is indeed very human.

  27. danphunter1 says:

    “SSPXers tend not to think in terms of the Code of Canon Law which is actually in force today.”

    Father with all due respect, actually they do.
    The Society canonists base their belief in supplied jurisdiction on the 1983 Code, 144.
    It is the 1917 code[that the Society does not go by] that does not allow for Common Error in Law, as the 1983 version does.

  28. jswr says:

    Perhaps an obvious question; in the E.F., the Mass follows the Sacrament, but is not necessarily linked to it. The Nuptial Mass (a Votive) is customary but not necessarily done immediately afterwards. Could the couple not marry with a Diocesan Priest (or with faculties), followed by a Private Mass, with Nuptial Blessings, which then allows the Pastor (who has to approve everything) some flexibility. The two could even be separated in time or place. I would not recommend the Sacrament be done by an SSPX Priest, nor probably will your Pastor, regardless of arguments – it will result in no end of headaches down the line.

  29. dcs says:

    It is the 1917 code[that the Society does not go by] that does not allow for Common Error in Law

    That is curious since preconciliar moral theologians discuss common error and supplied jurisdiction. See Jone (Fr. Heribert Jone, O.F.M. Cap., J.C.D.) for example.

  30. Supertradmum says:

    Most SSPXers I know would not step foot into a NO Church for a wedding after the fact, as described by several above. That is part of the problem.

  31. Alice says:

    I know that the Baltimore Catechism we used when I was a child mentioned that it was possible to have the wedding ceremony at one time and the Nuptial Mass later. I asked a priest who is trained in the EF if he could do the Nuptial Mass and blessing for my parents silver anniversary (my father wasn’t baptized until after they were married so they had a very simple ceremony) and he didn’t know of any reason why they *couldn’t* have a Nuptial Mass in the EF at that time.

    When I was planning my own wedding, a middle-aged, 20+ years married lady told me she believed in BIG weddings because in planning one, you had to work together through all the big issues that could lead to divorce later on, from relatives to religion to budgeting. How the couple handles this situation may set the precedent for future things such as the baptism of their children. Of course couples should honor their parents, but if lines need to be drawn for the good of the marriage, it is better to do it sooner rather than later.

    When I was a teenager my mother made it clear to our SSPX friends that she would not be joining them because she was going to raise her children in a parish where the priest had the faculties to marry. She also told us from the time that we were little that she would not attend our weddings unless we were married in the Church. I am thankful she was so strong on the importance of marrying validly because if we had gone the SSPX route, I doubt if I would have met, let alone married, my wonderful Catholic husband.

  32. danphunter1 says:

    dcs,
    Forgive me I did make a mistake,
    The Society appeals to canon 144 in the 1983 code which is interpretated by canonists differently than common error in the1917 code:
    “The New Code ratifies explicitly this doctrine[ecclesia supplet]in Canon 144, 1. Error of law consists in a FACT whose nature is sufficient to induce the error in a community, even though nobody in the community is mistaken about the lack of jurisdiction in the agent. It is not an actual error, but a fiction of law: an interpretative error, a fact that of its nature WOULD lead many in actual error. This means practically that if a priest without jurisdiction to hear confessions sits in a confessional or puts on a purple stole indicating that he is ready to hear confessions, the Church will supply his lack of jurisdiction for every absolution he will give.”