ASK FATHER: About delegation and the proper form of SSPX marriages

12_07_10_marriage_01From a reader…

I recently read your post regarding the recently-announced changes to the validity of marriages witnessed by SSPX priests, and I am confused. How does this change anything? Doesn’t Canon 1108 already give bishops and pastors the power to delegate ANY priest or deacon to assist at a marriage in order for that marriage to have proper form?
If this is the case, a bishop or priest only has to delegate an SSPX priest to witness a particular marriage for that marriage to have proper form according to canon 1108, correct?

GUEST PRIEST CANONIST RESPONSE:

Canon 1108 gives the Ordinary or the pastor the authority to delegate a priest or deacon to officiate at a wedding within the scope of their jurisdiction, however, that priest or deacon thus delegated must be capable of doing so.

Priests of the Priestly Society of St. Pius X have been ordained illicitly (without dimissorial letters from an Ordinary capable of issuing them). They are therefore ipso facto suspended from exercising that order (canon 1383).  Pope Benedict reaffirmed, when he lifted the excommunications of the bishops of the SSPX, that “the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers – even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty – do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church.”

Hence, in order to permit the priests of the Society licitly to officiate at weddings, the recent action of His Holiness, Pope Francis, was necessary. It was a helpful step towards the (God-willing) full reincorporation of the Society and its many good works into full and unimpaired communion with the rest of the Church.

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23 Responses to ASK FATHER: About delegation and the proper form of SSPX marriages

  1. CradleRevert says:

    The timing of this move puzzled me. If the full reconciliation of the SSPX is as imminent as it’s being reported, why bother issuing this permission separately now?

  2. Former Altar Boy says:

    Father, Previously you wrote about the reason and necessity for priests at have faculties from the local ordinary. Assuming the regularization of SSPX, what will be the status of the marriages and Confirmations conducted before the regularization when SSPX did not have faculties? [Confirmations have nothing to do with this situation. I suppose there would be a single administrative procedure for the previous SSPX marriages. It won’t be very complicated.]

  3. Jason Keener says:

    I’m very thankful Pope Francis is resolving the SSPX situation; however, were I the Supreme Pontiff, I would have simply extended to all priests of the Society faculties to both receive the consent of the parties and to offer the Wedding Mass. It seems to be quite a burden to expect regular diocesan priests who are already over-worked in their own parishes to take on yet another task of receiving the consent of parties at SSPX weddings, especially when there is already a validly-ordained Catholic priest there. If an SSPX priest can offer the Mass and hear Confessions, why can’t he be given the permission and faculties to receive the consent of the parties without any further talk about having another priest present? If the SSPX is not heretical or schismatic, they should be fully regularized and given all faculties without further delay, no?

  4. Peter Stuart says:

    Um. The institutional Church is pulling the skids out from under marriage and the Eucharist, while characters like James Martin SJ and ‘ministries’ like New Ways get the spotlight while SSA Catholics struggling to be faithful, like me, get the back of their hand.

    And I’m supposed to worry about whether they give faculties to the SSPX? As the liberal nutjobs like to chant, this ain’t 1950. [The Church -as we are – is capable of dealing with problems on many fronts. As a matter of fact, helping the SSPX back into the “mainstream” of the Church will pay many dividends over time.]

  5. Thank you for posting this clarification Father.

  6. jflare says:

    “If an SSPX priest can offer the Mass and hear Confessions, …”
    Well, there is the problem that SSPX priests cannot, at present, offer Mass licitly. They lack appropriate faculties. So..
    “If the SSPX is not heretical or schismatic, they should be fully regularized and given all faculties without further delay, no?”
    *groans* You emphasize well my complaint with this situation. Declaring that the Society is not formally schismatic or heretical, even as the Society acts in a schismatic manner…to me, this has always been logically impossible.

  7. I am a Latin Mass Society Representative in England and, as you can imagine, I am am getting wearisome of the constant ‘no problem with the SSPX’ narrative. Despite the fact they are not Formally Schismatic (as you like to keep – correctly – telling us), the facts are 100% crystal clear and can no longer be denied…. The SSPX might not be formally schismatic, but they breed a schismatic mentality, particularly among younger (& newer) members. Does this not bother you? It appears not, going by your usual articles which never address this.

    The problem is that there are a myriad of articles like this one which state that everything is A-OK with the SSPX, but the problem is that whilst the Society are not in schism, it is clear that many of their new attendees are (including my own friends). These new (and let’s face it older) attendees are now going to SSPX Masses in the UK because they either what to separate themselves from the mainstream Church, or want to separate themselves from the New Mass i.e. they are not just going because they ‘want to go to a 1962 Tridentine Mass’. PCED has clearly has stated on at least three occasions that this is not allowed.

    I didn’t realise this was happening until my closest friend started attending to the SSPX to avoid what they call the ‘counterfeit church’ (i.e. they now have a schismatic mindset in attending the SSPX). You only have to check out the growing number of ‘toxic trad’ FB pages (which are becoming the normalised benchmark standard – as opposed to far right pages) to see that this is now a growing phenomena.

    I think that I have made a valid point, and if you check the online pages, hardly any respected Catholic sources are warning of this danger.

  8. robtbrown says:

    Jason Keener says

    It seems to be quite a burden to expect regular diocesan priests who are already over-worked in their own parishes to take on yet another task of receiving the consent of parties at SSPX weddings, especially when there is already a validly-ordained Catholic priest there.

    What you say is true. The document says the bishop can grant faculties for marriage to SSPX priests when diocesan priests are not available. Methinks that in most dioceses it won’t take long for this to become to be the normal procedure.

  9. robtbrown says:

    jflare,

    The schismatic act was the consecration of bishops.

    Does the present MO make sense? IMHO, it makes about as much sense as Rome persecuting those who have wanted to use the 1962 Missal.

    Does the attack by Romanitas on Latinitas make sense?

  10. jflare says:

    robt,
    As mentioned before, for my understanding, the Church’s teachings–and logic–dictate that the Society’s actions of offering Mass and other sacraments without proper faculties DO constitute schismatic acts, whether formally recognized by PCED–or anyone else–as such or not. If that is the case, then the Society’s members are inherently acting in a state of schismatic intent, thereby being inherently schismatic.

    I never suggested that the modernist hounding of traditionalist made sense. It does not. I could discern that, however poorly, well before I learned anything of traditional norms or of the battles between traditionalist and modernist. Even so, a large chunk of the argument, as I have witnessed it, has borne little concern for the actual merits of the appropriate concerns. Instead, I have witnessed far too much behavior like watching two six-year-old children squabbling bitterly over a toy. BOTH sides are deathly wrong if one understands the objective Truths and morals involved, but one can tell that each child is completely convinced that his own point of view is right, the other’s is absolutely wrong. It is long since time for the adult to step into the fight, establish order, and insist that both children behave themselves because both are partly right AND partly wrong.

    I have come to–reluctantly–consider that some of the SSPX has merit; the passion that many SSPX priests–and those who “follow” them by attending Mass at chapels and whatnot, could be a tremendous source of courage and strength for the Church, a voice to recognize actual teaching and traditional practice. As mentioned before though, they can’t offer any besides a muted voice if cannot conform themselves to the Pope’s legitimate authority. Simply pointing fingers at the other guy’s errors will not cure the Society’s own wrong-headed ideas or intentions.

  11. Alice says:

    As I understand it, priests of the SSPX are ordained illicitly and exercise no legitimate ministry in the Church. The Vatican also says that a priest with faculties should perform the actual marriage ceremony when couples come to the SSPX priest for marriage and then the SSPX priest can do the Nuptial Mass (illicitly, obviously, since he’s not supposed to be saying Mass at all), so, are SSPX priests really able to marry couples licitly or is it validly, but illicitly, similar to the way that I (were I unmarried) could marry validly but illicitly in an Orthodox ceremony?

  12. robtbrown says:

    jflare,

    If the SSPX priests are suspended and the administration of their Sacraments are a schismatic act, then the pope has both approved and encouraged schismatic acts–which I don’t think he has.

  13. robtbrown says:

    Alice says,

    The Vatican also says that a priest with faculties should perform the actual marriage ceremony when couples come to the SSPX priest for marriage and then the SSPX priest can do the Nuptial Mass (illicitly, obviously, since he’s not supposed to be saying Mass at all)

    See my comments above.

  14. robtbrown says:

    jflare says

    If that is the case, then the Society’s members are inherently acting in a state of schismatic intent, thereby being inherently schismatic.

    Their intent is to celebrate mass. It is possible that any schismatic aspect (if there is one) to their act be praeter intentionem.

  15. jflare says:

    robt,
    I don’t think we can reconcile your appraisal with the faith. Fr Z has noted at times how a pope, being the lawgiver, may “violate” canon law as he should see fit. [I’ve also said that there are consequences in the order of the Church for doing that.] Pope Francis acted as he felt best to offer grace to all the faithful, including SSPX. Insisting that such should encourage SSPX reconciling has been a narrative that the Vatican curia has tried to discourage.
    As to the priests of the Society wishing to offer Mass, I notice that such intentions still require proper faculties for routine offering of sacraments. Priests must believe that one of the faithful genuinely face immediately life-threatening circumstances to act without faculties. They can’t use a perceived crisis of faith to justify ongoing defiance of normal canons.
    Where the Society’s members lack appropriate faculties to offer Mass, I would say their actions are inherently schismatic, even if nobody admits to such publicly.

  16. Imrahil says:

    Three points:

    1. you do not need, technically, (positive) faculties to celebrate Mass as a priest. You need the priestly character. Some priests are forbidden to do so, however, it’s not due to a lack of faculties, but the lack of “faculties” is due to the Prohibition.

    (The thing is different for confession, or, as a matter of fact, also preaching, where you do need faculties properly so-called.)

    2. There can be little doubt that the Vatican has recognized the SSPX have (at least subjectively) serious problems, that the Vatican is in dialogue over those problems, and that it doesn’t object to Masses being celebrated in the meantime. There can be no doubt at all that the Vatican has formally and explicitly allowed Masses for at least one sort of occasion, to wit, nuptial Masses.

    3. Schism, to repeat, is not a catch-all collection of all sort of uncanonical behavior not otherwise threatened with excommunication (with the possible exception of instantly repented-of negligence), but one specific crime, which “in order to possess this character it must include besides the transgression of the commands of superiors, denial of their Divine right to command” (Catholic encyclopedia”, and which was in the past observed to, practically, always go hand in hand with heresy.

  17. jflare says:

    Imrahil,
    If a priest may offer Mass privately, I understand he must have faculties to offer Mass publicly. Then too, given that we have been told that we are not to attend SSPX Masses routinely, and a regular parish priest needs to officiate at those weddings–or so I think I understood–I would say it’s clear the Vatican DOES object to the SSPX offering Mass. Lastly, I should think that the Society, by offering sacraments in defiance of the known wishes of the Holy Father, does transgress the command of the same Holy Father’s right to command. Such would fit the definition given for schism.
    I should comment that I cannot claim to be the complete subject-matter expert on most of these concerns. On the other hand, I have yet to hear a competent reason why I have something wrong.

    “I’ve also said that there are consequences in the order of the Church for doing that.”
    Agreed. I think a pope take a risk–sometimes a serious one–by acting as he wishes.

  18. robtbrown says:

    jflare,

    Excuse the delay. I am in the middle of moving.

    1. The pope merely dispenses himself from the law.

    2. For the zillionth time a priest doesn’t need faculties to say mass. Faculties are needed for Confession and Matrimony.

    3. If the definition of schism is transgressing the authority of the pope, then how many priests using altar girls were in schism before permission was given in 1994/?

    4. As I noted above, the question at hand is the suspension a divinis. By encouraging SSPX priests to say mass at weddings and granting faculties for Confessions the pope seems to be to have implicitly ended that suspension.

    5. Obviously, Canon Law is very important in the Church. Individual canons, however, do not circumscribe the life of the Church. The last canon, 1752, says why: Suprema Lex Salus Animarum.

  19. robtbrown says:

    jflare says,

    I don’t think we can reconcile your appraisal with the faith.

    What is your background in theology and/or canon law.

  20. jflare says:

    “What is your background in theology and/or canon law.”
    I might ask you the same, robt. I have not tried to profess to being theologian or canon lawyer, as I am neither. I am, however, constantly educating myself more thoroughly with regard to faith. As mentioned, I have to see a competent declaration or line of argument to demonstrate a manner in which I have erred.
    For item 3, I might remind you that if Roman Curia or the Holy Father did not act with vigor to correct such errors, such omission demonstrates that such authorities decided against wielding authority, not that they lacked authority to act.

    “By encouraging SSPX priests to say mass at weddings and granting faculties for Confessions the pope seems to be to have implicitly ended that suspension.”
    I wouldn’t say that’s the case. Based on a quick check at Catholic Answers, I see a 2013 item which mentions how a bishop will give various faculties to his priests, including for Eucharist. I think if Pope Francis had wished to offer faculties for Mass to Society priests, he could have done so. That he did not suggests to me that he does not yet deem doing so appropriate.

    Incidentally gents, I am hard pressed to explain how we are doing much besides arguing in circles, neither side honestly being persuaded. As we have strayed a bit from the original subject matter somewhat to boot, I think it wise to cease testing Fr Z’s patience. I do not intend to post further on this entry. It may be only a matter of time before we’re arguing the same concerns yet again.

  21. robtbrown says:

    jflare,

    1. We’re not on a first name basis.

    2. STB, STL, STD from the Angelicum in Rome with a concentration in Thomistic Studies. Then four years teaching theology at the FSSP seminary in Denton, NE.

    Although I have made it a point not to mention that on this site, it has come up a few times.

    Your turn.

    3. The reason I ask your background in theology or canon law is that more than one sound explanation given to you seems to have flown over your head.

    4. Feel free to cite the text from Catholic Answers.

  22. Imrahil says:

    Dear jflare,

    1. given that we have been told that we are not to attend SSPX Masses routinely.

    We haven’t. We have been discouraged from doing so, and that not with the argument that there was something wrong with the Masses themselves, but because the ones who said so saw a danger of imbibing a “schismatic mentality” which, need I say it, wouldn’t be in itself a schism even if it was there.

    And even the discouragement without exception stem from before the Year of Mercy. When the SSPX had their priestly ordination last year, even the diocese of Ratisbon – which certainly cannot be accused of taking a easy-going Approach towards the SSPX – commented that “we still have our differences, but it’s legal at present”.

    2. a regular parish priest needs to officiate at those weddings–or so I think I understood–I would say it’s clear the Vatican DOES object to the SSPX offering Mass.

    The contrary is true. First, noone said anything about a parish priest. Second, a priest with regular status (apparently preferably a diocesan priest as opposed to a religious priest) should officiate at the wedding itself and that if it can be done (if not, the SSPX priest even here has faculties), and I have previously said by the way that I guess, the “it cannot be done” will for mere practical reasons be the usual case. But the point is that even if a diocesan priest is present to witness the marriage vows, Mass can be said by the SSPX priest. Even if the diocesan priest is present. How you infer from that that the Vatican would rather see the Mass not celebrated by the SSPX priest is beyond me.

    3. Lastly, I should think that the Society, by offering sacraments in defiance of the known wishes of the Holy Father

    There are not, to my Knowledge, any “known wishes of the Holy Father” for them not to celebrate the sacraments that I know of (post 2009), and there are certainly none that I know of post 2015.

    4. , does transgress the command of the same Holy Father’s right to command. Such would fit the definition given for schism.

    Apart from the fact that we are not in Prussia and what you call a “wish” of the Holy Father would, in itself, not be a command, you happen to have exchanged the key word. You exchanged “deny” by “transgress”. So, in Brief in hope beyond hope that it may sink in:

    Transgress the command is disobedience,
    deny the command is schism,
    simplifyingly speaking.

    5. I wouldn’t say that’s the case. Based on a quick check at Catholic Answers, I see a 2013 item which mentions how a bishop will give various faculties to his priests, including for Eucharist. I think if Pope Francis had wished to offer faculties for Mass to Society priests, he could have done so. That he did not suggests to me that he does not yet deem doing so appropriate.

    If you needed faculties to say Mass, there might be something in that, but you don’t. As for the suspension, the Pope treats it as non-existent. And in case of a doubt, the lenient Version is to be followed; it is that simple.

    (Besides, when you said that a priest might celebrate a private Mass but not a public Mass, perhaps even the contrary is rather true: if a priest is suspended, but not vitandusly so, then the suspension is lifted when People ask for the Mass for a not unjust reason – which would seem to favor the public rather than the private Mass.)

  23. jflare says:

    “We’re not on a first name basis.”
    I do not claim to know what your first name might be. Nor have I inquired. Judging by your comments, I gather perhaps you’re often referred to as “professor”. So be it. We are discussing matters on the internet, not in a formal environment wherein titles or last names might be normative. I used an abbreviated form of your internet ID, which does happen now and then on the internet. I would suggest we focus on the matters at hand.

    ” STB, STL, STD from the Angelicum in Rome with a concentration in Thomistic Studies. Then four years teaching theology at the FSSP seminary in Denton, NE. ”
    Congratulations. Glad to hear that the seminarians benefit from your background.

    “The reason I ask your background in theology or canon law is that more than one sound explanation given to you seems to have flown over your head.”
    Do you really think I will be persuaded by a cheap dig at my intelligence or education? [I am very little patience for dialogue like this.] For what it’s worth, I hold a BS in Meteorology and Master’s in Business Administration. In time, I hope to pursue a PharmD, but we’ll see what the Almighty has in store. To date, none of our respective credentials appear to have particular bearing. If they did, we’d be fussing over differing sources which we each might cite.
    Incidentally, I’ve noticed that whenever a certain Dr Peters might be consulted, he generally backs his view with a sound presentation of the appropriate canons and the rationale involved.

    “For the zillionth time a priest doesn’t need faculties to say mass.” […to say Mass validly.]
    We’re agreed that such are not required for private Mass. However, we continue arguing about licit offerings of public Mass, especially as offered by SSPX priests. So far as I’m aware, and which your argument has not disproven, priests appropriate faculties from their local ordinary–or superior of the order who is in communion with Rome–for a licit, routine offering of Mass. Such was confirmed to me by fellow parishioners at an FSSP parish, one of whom was previously an ICK seminarian.

    I understand the desire to make room for SSPX to act; I cannot agree that they currently meet the appropriate requirements for offering Mass routinely for the general public. They do need to be reconciled with Rome for this.