Our friends at Rorate, who are often on top of this sort of thing, reveal a letter sent by the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” to a questioner. The letter is unsigned, though it has the stamp of the Commission.
Here, as they report, are the questions:
1. Is it possible to fulfill the Sunday obligation by participating in a Mass celebrated by a priest from Society of St. Pius X, if the participant is not “against the validity or legitimacy of the Holy Mass or the Sacraments celebrated in the forma ordinaria or against the Roman Pontiff as Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church” and this is the only opportunity in the local area to participate in the Mass in forma extraordinaria (which the participant is highly devoted to)?
In response to your first question this Dicastery would limit itself to referring you to the letter of 10 March 2009 written by Pope Benedict XVI to his brother Bishops in which he stated:
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. (Pope Benedict XVI, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the remission of the excommunication of the four Bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefevbre, 10 March 2009).
Frankly, I would not have quoted a text which, because someone didn’t do much homework, raised so much controversy. The word “ministry” must always raise doctrinal questions. There is an important 1997 document, Ecclesiae de mysterio, “On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests”, often ignored or read selectively by liberals who blur the ministry of the ordained and the participation by lay people in the ministry of the ordained.
Of course what is going on above is a round about way of saying that when an SSPX priest says Mass, the Mass is valid, but it is celebrated without the permission of the Church and, in a sense, not quite with or for the Church. That makes participating in those Masses problematic. However, that was written by the Pope, who is Legislator. Another Pope Legislator issued the 1983 Code of Canon Law in which we read can. 1248: “The precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day.” That means Masses of the SSPX. A fly in that ointment is a response from the PCED about chapels that are not SSPX but are only associated with the SSPX. HERE. At what point of remove will the Church say that a Mass is still “Catholic”? Tough question, no?
That said, doesn’t this raise some interesting points about what liberals call “ministry” when it comes to lay people?
2. Do the decree of Sacred Congregation of Rites (no. 4184) and the decision of Pontifical Comission ‘Ecclesia Dei’ (no. 24/92), concerning the possibility of serving as a subdeacon during the Mass in forma extraordinaria, apply also to diocesan seminarians (who are not seminarians of the institutes erected by Pontifcial Commision ‘Ecclesia Dei’) who wear clerical clothing?
According to a letter sent by the PCED to the Australian Ecclesia Dei Society, 7 June 1993, diocesan seminarians who are officially installed acolytes can take the role of the subdeacon in a Solemn Mass if a cleric isn’t there to take the role. In 2009 I opined that I was sure that the PCED would still take that position were a dubium offered to that Dicastery. Read more details about what the “straw subdeacon does” in Reid’s reworking of Fortescue/O’Connell.
The letter, above, does not say anything new. This is good. It is a dodge, but sometimes a dodge is good. Maintain the status quo… for now.