Our friends at Rorate have publicized that a French bishop, Most. Rev. Jean Bonfils, Emeritus of Nice went to an SSPX chapel in Ajaccio, Corsica and administered the sacrament of Confirmation to 19 people.
It seems that the local SSPX priest was on his way out of the SSPX door and that Bp. Bonfils did not have anything worked out with the SSPX Superior Bp. Fellay. The SSPX priest was working out incardination in a diocese.
That said, about a zillion people have emailed me asking my take on this.
My initial thought was, “OUTSTANDING! We need more of this!”
My second thought was, “OUTSTANDING! We need more of this!”
Then I consulted a canon lawyer to find out if there was something I might have over looked in my enthusiasm.
Here is a response I received back from the canonist (My usual stuff added.):
This would seem to be something of a canonical win-win situation for the bishop and the faithful. The bishop (-then administrator) of the diocese confirmed members of his faithful [they are his faithful even if they never go to a regular church] who had been duly prepared for the sacrament. The use of the Extraordinary Form for administering confirmation is clearly an option for bishops since Universae Ecclesiae. According to canon 881, the sacrament of confirmation ordinarily is to be celebrated in a church, which might give rise to the question of whether the SSPX church is indeed a “church” according to the law (cf. canons 1214 and 1215). However, canon 881 extends permission for confirmation to be celebrated “for a just and reasonable cause…in any fitting place,” so that question is, with regards to this question, a merely academic one.
I have long thought it to be a failing of most diocesan bishops to omit proper sollicitude for the clergy and the faithful who attend the SSPX chapels in their diocese. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?] Regardless of the irregular erection of some of these chapels and the irregular status of their clergy, the faithful remain subject to the diocesan bishop, who is bound to care for them. [Do I hear another “Amen!”? … QUAERITUR:] How many priests and faithful would be brought back to unquestionably full communion with the Church if the local pastors started acting more like Bishop Bonfils, or even bolder – just showing up appropriately vested ten minutes before Mass (leaving too-little time for the chain of command to issue a bureaucratic refusal) and even merely sitting in choir during the Mass. [OORAH!] Or inviting the SSPX priests to dinner at the bishop’s house (or a neutral site, if they are particularly paranoid – some of which are with good reason). One of the taglines that gets pushed at every parish and diocesan seminar seems to be “creating a welcoming community” – how have we done in welcoming the SSPX clergy and the faithful who go to their chapels back into a more regular status with the Church? Seems to me that this action of Bishop Bonfils seems to go a long way.
Just a few more canonical details – I hope that Bishop Bonfils makes certain that these confirmations are registered in the sacramental books of the territorial parish which covers the area where the SSPX chapel is or the diocesan curia, and that he’s made certain that the notices have been sent to the baptismal churches of the faithful who were confirmed so that the appropriate notations can be made (c. 894)