From a reader:
A little over a year ago, the bishop of the Diocese of Calgary issued a statement banning Catholics in Calgary from attending the SSPX church stating that:
“1. According to Canon 300 – No association may call itself catholic except with the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority…. St. Dennis Church does not have canonical status within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary.”
– See more HERE
A number of members of our FSSP Latin Mass Community state that the bishop is wrong and that he has no authority to ban Catholics from attending their church, and see no problem attending their Masses and going to confession to their priests (they have been told SSPX cannot validly absolve, but they disagree).
Has the bishop over-stepped his authority, or is this perfectly legitimate?
The text of Bishop Henry’s letter (for the Diocese of Calgary) seems reasonable and in keeping with canon law.
He correctly sums up the situation regarding the SSPX and their canonical situation. He says, clearly, that Catholics should not attend the SSPX chapel, and he provides direction to a local parish where access to the Traditional Mass (and presumably, the other sacraments) is available in full and unambiguous communion with the Holy See.
One might quibble with Bishop Henry’s unfortunate expression where he invites the faithful to “celebrate (sic) the Traditional Latin Mass”. We must presume he means something like attend, participate in, hear, worship at, etc. But let that pass.
Notice that Bp. Henry does not indicate a penalty against Catholics who do, against his advice and his pastoral guidance as their pastor, attend the SSPX chapel.
Thus, it is wrong to say Bishop Henry is “banning” anything.
He is correcting, warning, illuminating – shepherding – his flock. He is advising them of the spiritual danger of flirting with those who flaunt (or flout – see below) legitimate ecclesiastical authority. The letter indicates his pastoral solicitude. Instead of just saying, “You shouldn’t go there,” he provides an alternative, “Why not go here, instead?”
Members of the faithful who “disagree” are free to do so. They should, however, remember that all actions have consequences. Christ and the long tradition of the Church make it clear that obedience to the shepherds that have been placed in authority over us, when they are exercising their legitimate authority, is the path to paradise. Engendering a spirit of disobedience to them places souls on a perilous path.