ASK FATHER: Will SSPX priests be able to absolve validly after the Year of Mercy closes?

Artgate_Fondazione_Cariplo_-_Molteni_Giuseppe,_La_confessione 945From a reader…

QUAERITUR:

I’ve been searching through the Internet, and since I’ve found absolutely nothing regarding this matter, I’ve thought I might as well just send this question to you so that you can be the first (hopefully) to write about it. The Year of Mercy is about to end, what happens to SSPX’s faculties for confession after this Sunday? Any updates or comments about it? This is very important to me, as their confessions have benefited me greatly in the last year, and the SSPX chapels here in Malaysia are the only place in my ENTIRE COUNTRY (9 dioceses large) that the Sacraments in the traditional rite are offered.

Good question.  I have a couple feelers out about this matter and I am waiting for responses.

First, keep in mind that – as it appears, at least – the Pope, in his letter to Archbp. Fisichella for the beginning of the Year of Mercy, did NOT say that the priests of the SSPX would have the faculty to absolve.  He said that the faithful could go to the SSPX priests for confession! He didn’t explicitly say that the SSPX priests will have faculties to hear their confessions.  It seems like a nit-picky detail but – it isn’t.  Not if people want clarity. When it comes to validity of absolution, it seems to me that people would like clarity.  Clear laws govern these matters so that people can have peace of mind.

In any event, it can be argued, and has been argued, that, if the faithful can have their sins validly absolved by an SSPX priest, then – somehow or other, who knows how – the Holy Father in effect granted the faculty to absolve.  But that’s not how the Holy Father framed it.

That applied to the Year of Mercy, which is about to end.

So, it must be asked – QUAERITUR: 

What about after the Year of Mercy?

I’ve heard a rumor that the Holy Father wanted to or was going to extend beyond the Year of Mercy what he vaguely – but I guess effectively – granted the faithful during the Year of Mercy.

I have no idea how we will know about that.  Clear cut, juridically limpid, documents aren’t exactly forthcoming these days.

Since the Year of Mercy ends in a matter of a few days, we had better keep hitting the refresh key on whatever sites we follow.

My hope is that the Holy Father will, in clear and unambiguous terms, grant a faculty to the priests of the SSPX to receive sacramental confessions and to absolve validly even when there isn’t danger of death.   My hope also is that the SSPX priests and the Holy See will work out something soon so that all of these questions about confession (and about marriages) are resolved once and for all.

Many people have benefited from being able to go to confession to SSPX priests during the Year of Mercy. It was a good sign from the Holy Father that he did this, however oddly.  However, unless we hear something from the Holy Father (or from a competent authority such as the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei) about this quite soon, it seems that, once the Year is over, the faithful will no longer be able to go to SSPX priests for valid absolution.

As things stand now, the Latin Church has a Code of Canon Law, in which matters such as faculties to receive confessions and to absolve validly are spelled out.    The Holy Father is, of course, the Lawgiver in the Church.  If we wishes, he can change the law so that matters of faculties are as vague as how he imparted the benefit in question at the beginning of the Year of Mercy. However, until he does change the law, we the faithful have to expect that, for the sake of order and peace of mind, clear statements will be forthcoming.  I pray that they will.

 

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12 Responses to ASK FATHER: Will SSPX priests be able to absolve validly after the Year of Mercy closes?

  1. Gerard Plourde says:

    There is a path that would resolve the situation. The Society could accept the offer originally proposed by Pope Benedict, which, I assume, is still on the table as far as the Vatican is concerned.

  2. Sword40 says:

    As many of us have followed the continuing discussions between Rome and SSPX and all the rumors/counter rumors for these many years, it seems to me that like the lady who “thinks” she may be pregnant; well, either she is or is not. She can’t be “semi-pregnant”.

    For those who follow the SSPX, trust God in His mercy, to be the judge. I, for one, will never condemn them. Besides the way things are going in the Vatican, none of us really knows what’s going on. This is why I follow Tradition and attend the FSSP.

  3. robtbrown says:

    Gerard Plourde says:

    There is a path that would resolve the situation. The Society could accept the offer originally proposed by Pope Benedict, which, I assume, is still on the table as far as the Vatican is concerned.

    I was told that the offer originally proposed by BXVI didn’t reach the SSPX. There were changes made to it before it was delivered. And BXVI via messenger told Msgr Fellay not to sign it.

  4. robtbrown says:

    Msgr Fellay said that faculties would continue after the Year of Mercy.

  5. robtbrown says:

    Should be:

    Msgr Fellay said the Pope told him that . . .

  6. Gabriel Syme says:

    Gerard Ploude,

    My understanding is that there is a new (or at least modified) offer on the table, which is satisfactory to the SSPX and which Bishop Fellay is currently testing / reviewing, to see if it is indeed as promised. I think the offer is ok “on paper” but there are issues of trust and practicality to be ironed out.

    My hope / prayer had been that +Fellay would have been able to accept this offer in time for the end of the year of mercy. So, I had been expecting some announcement sometime soon – but who knows what will happen? It would be a great disappointment if this “fell through”, but we have been disappointed before.

    As it stands, the SSPX will in any case still argue they have the emergency jurisdiction canon law provides for, in the event of an emergency situation in the Church.

    I am not canon lawyer, but we have a situation where the Church hierarchy is at war with one another and the Pope is trying to distance the Church from the teaching of Jesus Christ (in between his regular attacks on the sacraments and his own flock).

    If that’s not an emergency situation, I am not sure what ever could be.

    It seems quite clear to me that we are experiencing what Our Lady has previously warned us about, at Fatima, about apostasy starting at the top of the Church. Against this background, a formal canonical recognition would seem among the least of worries!

  7. Gerard Plourde says:

    Dear Gabriel Syme,

    Regarding the Society’s claim that a state of emergency exists, I will offer the guidance. Bishop Morlino gave to his flock in the Diocese of Madison as what in the law would be described as “persuasive authority”.

    “The SSPX also makes the argument that they have permission because the Church is in a state of “emergency.” However, 1) the Legislator (the Pope) and the bishops with him don’t think there is a state of emergency, and 2) the sacraments offered by the SSPX are already widely available at legitimate parishes and chapels, i.e., no one is being denied the sacraments.”

  8. Jean-Luc says:

    Father, were you “feelers” able to enlighten you about the SSPX priests’ faculty to absolve after November 20?

  9. robtbrown says:

    The SSPX also makes the argument that they have permission because the Church is in a state of “emergency.” However, 1) the Legislator (the Pope) and the bishops with him don’t think there is a state of emergency, and 2) the sacraments offered by the SSPX are already widely available at legitimate parishes and chapels, i.e., no one is being denied the sacraments.”

    It’s availability varies from diocese to diocese.

    Even so, it depends on what is meant by “widely available”. There are three churches here with daily TLM’S–12, 18, and 24 mile drive for me.

    Available? Yes. Widely available? Not so much.

  10. gatormom says:

    If every Catholic attending the Novus Ordo Masses is in danger of death, as they clearly are since the all receive Anointing of the Sick how is there any problem with anyone receiving valid absolution from SSPX?

  11. Gabriel Syme says:

    Gerard Plourde

    Thank you for that information – I have a very high regard for Bishop Morlino, whom I often read about here.

    However in this instance I would not say we should look to the Pope’s opinion – given he himself is a part-cause of the emergency. As for the Bishops, well – we have seen 4 recently ask the Pope to clarify his own ambiguous document, this is quite unprecedented in modern times.

    Also, the emergency does not relate to provision of the sacraments (which I agree are widely available, even if in a modern form which can often be dis-satisfactory).

    Anyway, let us pray that the Cardinals initiative will be a success and that the Church will soon be out of this current situation.

  12. Athelstan says:

    He said that the faithful could go to the SSPX priests for confession! He didn’t explicitly say that the SSPX priests will have faculties to hear their confessions. It seems like a nit-picky detail but – it isn’t.

    But what would be the point in going to an SSPX priest for confession, if he lacks the power to actually absolve you of your sins? It would be a pretty much pointless exercise.

    I think this is a case where it’s the Pope’s typical lack of precision and clarity that is to blame, not his intention. Which would be hard to envision not including the power of the priests in question to provide absolution.