From a reader…
My wife and I recently discovered that Fr. Paul Wickens was schismatic priest. All we ever knew about him, we learned from our family. We attend Holy Mass at the chapel he built (now run by ICKSP with approval of the the archdiocese). Now that we know Fr. Wickens was in schism, what does that mean in regards the sacraments my wife and her sibling received from him? She received First Communion and Confirmation, and some her of siblings were baptized by him. Were these sacraments valid? Licit? Does anything have to be done on our part?
This reminds me of the early Church’s Donatist controversy.
Wickens did not have faculties from proper authority to function as a priest.
Everything that Wickens did was illicit, except in the case of danger of death (when the law itself provides faculties for valid absolution, etc).
However, being validly ordained, Wickens did truly confect the Eucharist when he validly, but illicitly, celebrated Holy Mass. Therefore, people really did receive Holy Communion from him.
Any person can baptize validly, provided they do what the Church intends. There is little doubt that Wickens baptized validly.
The ordinary minister of Confirmation is a bishop. However, can. 822 says that a priest who has the “faculty in virtue of universal law or the special grant of the competent authority also confers this sacrament validly.” The local bishop could give a priest the faculty and the law itself gives a priest the faculty in danger of death. Wickens would not have had the faculty to confirm. Hence, the validity of the confirmation is highly doubtful.
Sometimes when the unrepeatable sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation are doubtfully conferred, the rite is repeated conditionally. To the form (spoken words) of the sacrament there would be added “If you are not baptized/confirmed, …”.
What to do?
You should get in touch with your parish priest or the priest at the legitimate traditional chapel which you may now be frequenting and explain the situation. That priest should then consult with the chancery quickly and determine a way for you validly to be confirmed. I suspect that they would determine that you would need to be confirmed absolutely and not conditionally. I also suspect that the chancery has had to deal with this before, since Wicken’s chapel was there for a long time. This won’t be their first rodeo with his illicit and invalid acts.
Don’t fret over this.
If you didn’t know about any of this before, you are not guilty of the sin of simulating the administration of sacraments. However, I am sure that you want to know for sure and be at ease about having the sacramental character that Confirmation confers and you want the grace of this wonderful sacrament.
Hence, don’t dawdle, but you don’t have to dash from your computer or drop the phone, leaving supper on the burner and junior in the bathtub to fend for himself.
Right on schedule, I received another email directly after posting the above.
I received confirmation from Archbishop Lefebvre in the early 80s (pre-excommunication if that makes a difference). Was my confirmation valid?
Thanks Father. I really appreciate all that you do. God Bless.
If Archbp. Lefebvre did it, you were validly confirmed.
The 1983 Code of Canon Law says…
Can. 882 The ordinary minister of confirmation is a bishop; a presbyter provided with this faculty in virtue of universal law or the special grant of the competent authority also confers this sacrament validly.
Can. 886 §2. To administer confirmation licitly in another diocese, a bishop needs at least the reasonably presumed permission of the diocesan bishop unless it concerns his own subjects.
This is essentially the same in the older, 1917 Code.
So, a bishop without faculties or permission to function in a place validly but illicitly confers Confirmation. A priest needs the faculty to confer Confirmation validly and licitly.
Ergo, an SSPX bishop confirms validly but illicitly.
An SSPX priest, however, cannot confirm validly without the faculty, which he would have to obtain from proper authority or, in danger of death, from the law itself.