GUEST CONTRIBUTION: Q&A with the Pont. Comm. Ecclesia Dei about SSPX, schism and sacraments

I received a piece from a frequent reader/poster here at WDTPRS, Brian Mershon (pronounced MershON).  He asked me to look at it and, if useful post it. 

My emphases and comments.

PCED Confirms Officially: Society of St. Pius X within the Church, Not in Formal Schism; Catholics Commit No Sin nor Incur Any Canonical Penalty for Mass Attendance

By Brian Mershon

Msgr. Camille Perl, Vice President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei (PCED) has recently responded with a letter dated May 23, 2008, to questions I invoked regarding the official canonical status of the Society of St. Pius X and those Catholics who attend their chapels to fulfill their Sunday obligation.

This article is certain to generate much commentary both from die-hard SSPXers who can’t bear to believe their marriages and confessions might be invalid to “more Catholic than the Pope” conservatives who will continue to misconstrue the clear teaching of the PCED, Cardinal Castrillón and the Catholic Church regarding laity who attend SSPX chapels to fulfill their Sunday obligation.   [I love the smell of napalm in the morning… and I don’t mean the napalm patristibloggers enjoy!]

Indeed, the repeated public statements of Cardinal Castrillón that the SSPX is not in formal schism certainly rises above the level of a cleric’s private opinion on matters outside of his competence. His statements can be viewed by all Catholics as reflective of the current position of the Catholic Church on these matters. [That is so.] While some canonists, in good faith, might disagree, Cardinal Castrillón and the PCED’s responses to private correspondence certainly rise above the level of authority of a mere canonist’s opinion. [Probably.  Card. Castrillon is not just anyone.  He is President of the Commission which enjoys competence and authority from the Supreme Pontiff is act in all these matters.  He has made certain statements about the statues of the SSPX – repeatedly.  If what he were saying was not appreciated by the Holy Father, he would have been asked not to keep saying it.]

The responses to the letter below can be acted upon with a moral certitude[An important point is "moral certitude".  When in the Church we must deal with objective acts that everyone can see, we still cannot perfectly judge what we cannot see clearly.  Therefore, ecclesiastical authority must come to "moral certainty" when issuing a censure, for example.  This is the language Archbp. Burke used recently in his decrees about censures.  Also, when divorced lay people receive back from a tribunal a decree about the nullity of their marriages, they may then have "moral certainly" that they are free to marry.  When the Congregation for Causes of Saints issues a decree about the "heroic virtue" of a person, it does so after coming to a "moral certainty" about the person’s state of soul based on the evidence that was gathered and evaluated.  It is hard to judge perfectly things which cannot be seen or entirely grasped.  ]

His Eminence
Darío Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos
President, Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei (PCED)
Palazzo del Sant’Uffizio

Monday of Holy Week
Anno Domini 2008

Your Eminence,

I [Mershon] have compiled as reference numerous public interviews, both print and television, where you were quoted as stating that the case of the Society of St. Pius X “is not a formal schism” and other words to that effect.

Q: Is this your mere private opinion, or the official teaching of the Catholic Church in your official capacity as head of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei? 

PCED: “Statements made by Cardinal Castrillón need to be understood in a technical, canonical sense. Stating that the Society of St. Pius X “is not in formal schism” is to say that there has been no official declaration on the part of the Holy See that the Society of St. Pius X is in schism. Up to now, the Church has sought to show the maximum charity, courtesy and consideration to all those involved with the hope that such a declaration will not eventually be necessary.”  [This means that it might in fact be the case that the SSPX is in schism, but at this point the matter hasn’t been officially decided by the Holy See, or if it has, they have decided not to say.  No official declaration means that, right now, people can act in moral certainty that the SSPX is not in a state of schism, disagree or not.]

Would you please clarify the following for me in this private correspondence so that I can ensure that my family and I are following the current teaching of the Church on this specific matter?  [The writer wants moral certainty.  He doesn’t want to make a mistake that could affect his spiritual life and that of his family.]

Q: Does the Catholic Church currently hold that the priests and bishops of the Society of St. Pius X are in formal schism with the Catholic Church

PCED: “The bishops of the Society of St. Pius X are excommunicated according to the prescription of canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law which states that “A bishop who consecrates someone a bishop without pontifical mandate and the person who receives the consecration from him incur a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.” Archbishop Lefebvre was duly reminded of this before his conferral of Episcopal ordination on 30 June 1988 and the Holy Father confirmed that this penalty had been incurred in his Apostolic Letter Ecclesia Dei, #3 [cf. AAS 80 (1988) 1495-1498; English translation in L’Osservatore Romano English edition of 11 July 1988, p. 1].

The priests of the Society of St. Pius X are validly ordained, but suspended, that is prohibited from exercising their priestly functions because they are not properly incardinated in a diocese of religious institute in full communion with the Holy See (cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 265) and also because those ordained after the schismatic Episcopal ordinations were ordained by an excommunicated bishop. [There’s that word again.  Puzzling.]

Concretely, this means that the Masses offered by the priests of the Society of St. Pius X are valid, but illicit, i.e., contrary to Canon Law. The Sacraments of Penance and Matrimony, however, require that the priest enjoys the faculties of the diocese or has proper delegation. Since that is not the case with these priests, these sacraments are invalid. [Invalid.  Marriages and confessions.] It remains true, however, [pay attention] that, if the faithful are genuinely ignorant that the priests of the Society of St. Pius X do not have proper faculty to absolve, the Church supplies these faculties so that the sacrament is valid (cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 144)  [What we get into here involves a person’s culpability for ignorance.  If a guy genuinely doesn’t know that the SSPX priests don’t have the faculties from the Church so that marriages and confessions can be valid, then the person himself is simply ignorant and, well, God takes care of him through the Church.  If he has never had the news or information about this at all, or if he has had it inadequately explained so that he doesn’t get it, it doesn’t stick, then he is not at fault for his ignorance – unless … unless he either a) figured out there was something really important to this he didn’t understand and, either because he was lazy or afraid of learning the truth he therefore purposely avoided more information or b) is in a position of authority or responsibility which by its very nature require him to be adequately well-informed about all those things he must deal with.  In the case of a person who could learn, but doesn’t for whatever reason, we are talking about ignorance that could be overcome.  That person is in a state of vincible ignorance.  That ignorance can then either be innocent or culpable, depending on his own degree of guilt or responsibility for his own ignorance.  Then there are those who, for whatever reason, perhaps they are very stupid or perhaps they have some genuine psychological block, just can’t figure out or learn they truth, this is invincible ignorance, which can’t be overcome. They have far less culpability, or none, for their state.]

“While it is true that participation in the Mass at chapels of the Society of St. Pius X does not of itself constitute “formal adherence to the schism” (cf. Ecclesia Dei 5, c), such adherence can come about over a period of time as one slowly imbibes a schismatic mentality which separates itself from the teaching of the Supreme Pontiff and the entire Catholic Church. [It can happen over time, though this would differ with every person.] While we hope and pray for a reconciliation with the Society of St. Pius X, the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” cannot recommend that members of the faithful frequent their chapels for the reasons which we have outlined above. [Because, to one degree or another, you are weakening your bond wit the local bishop and the Roman Pontiff.] We deeply regret this situation and pray that soon a reconciliation of the Society of St. Pius X with the Church may come about, but until such time the explanations which we have given remain in force.”

Q: Does the Catholic Church currently hold that the situation of the Society of St. Pius X is not one for ecumenical dialogue [Good question.] because the Society of St. Pius X is an internal matter within the Catholic Church?

PCED: “Up to now the Catholic Church has acted as if the situation of the Society of St. Pius X is an internal matter within the Catholic Church and not a matter of ecumenical dialogue.”

Q: Do lay Catholics who frequent Society of St. Pius X chapels, either more less frequently, incur any sin or canonical delict by doing so, [Well… you don’t "incur" sin or delict, you "commit" them.  You incur a censure.]  if done solely out of devotion to the Church’s Latin liturgical tradition and not to separate one’s self from communion with one’s diocesan Ordinary or local pastor?  [Again we are into matters of conscience.]

PCED: “Catholics who frequent the chapels of the Society of St. Pius X do not incur any sin or canonical delict by doing so. [They are quoting his language back to him.] However, we further refer you to what we have already stated in #4 above.”

A: What level of authority do your answers to this private correspondence hold?

PCED: “As we already stated to you in our letter of 4 July 2007: “This Pontifical Commission does its best to transmit responses which are in full accord with the magisterium and the present canonical practices of the Catholic Church. One should accept them with docility and can act upon them with moral certainty.” [There is the issue of moral certainty.] We would further add that no dicastery of the Holy See will give other responses than those which we have given here.” [This is important because the PCED has competence in these matters and no other Vatican office should step on their toes.  For example, should the CDW get a question about the old Mass, they should pass it to the PCED.  If the Cong. for Clergy get these questions, they should be forwarded to the PCED.]

Please know that you and your staff and the Holy Father are in my family’s constant prayers as we prepare to celebrate the Holy Week and the season of Easter.

Pax Christi in Regno Christi,

Brian C. Mershon

Commentary on the PCED Responses   [This is by Mershon.]

1. The current language being used by the Catholic Church avoids saying that the Society of St. Pius X is in formal schism.  [They are not saying officially that the SSPX is NOT in schism.  They are avoiding saying officially anything either way.]

2. Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and the four bishops he ordained in the Society of St. Pius X directly against the express will of the Holy Father incurred excommunication, as outlined by the Code of Canon Law and confirmed by the Congregation for Bishops and Pope John Paul II in his motu proprio Ecclesia Dei Adflicta.  [Remember, that no censure is incurred without the person having sinned.  When enough outward evidence points to the sinful nature of the act, the censure is also officially declared, as happened with the confirmation by the Congregation.  This is why some latae sententiae excommunications are later publicly confirmed.  They go by the evidence, come to a moral certainty about the person’s having incurred the censure automatically (which means they examined the evidence even of the possibility of the sinful nature of the objective act, and then made a decision, declaring the situation for the good of souls.]

3. The Society of St. Pius X priests are suspended from priestly ministry. Therefore, objectively speaking, they are committing sins of grave matter by continuing their active ministry without a specific mandate of the Church. [Of course they may subjectively not be sinning, they may either so convinced of their rectitude or, perhaps, dense, that they are not actually guilty of the objective sins they may be commiting.]  Of course, the Society’s official claim, wrongly or rightly, is that the salvation of souls and the current state of emergency in the Church forces them to continue to offer their ministries without ecclesiastical approval. There has been no indication by the Catholic Church that the priests, as a whole, are excommunicated or in formal schism[Remember: it is pretty hard, I would say impossible, to continue a claim of a state of emergency when more than one Pope, over quite a long time, says there isn’t not one that justified their actions.]

4. Therefore, all the sacraments offered by Society of St. Pius X priests, with the exception of Penance and Matrimony, [And that is important.] are valid, but illicit, meaning “illegal.” Penance and Matrimony both require faculties from the local bishop, [or other legitimate authority such as a religious superior, etc., but generally also the local bishop if a priest is stable in a place for a long time and working publicly.] which the Society of St. Pius X priests do not have; therefore, they are invalid. Cases of supplied jurisdiction apply to those who are, for example, in danger of death. [That is to say that the Church’s law itself gives the faculty to any priest, even one who has been "laicized" to absolve in danger of death, even if there is present also a priest in good standing.  This is because the highest good of all the law is the salvation of souls.  Thus, law foresees these possibilities.]  Those who read and understand the PCED’s response can no longer claim ignorance regarding the Church’s official teaching on these two sacraments’ invalidity[The writer is trying to overcome the ignorance, vinicible and perhaps also culpable ignorance of those who frequent SSPX priests for absolution or who go to them to be married.  This is like saying: at this point you have no excuse.  You have been told.  You can’t claim ignorance anymore.  From now on, if you go to an SSPX priest for absolution, it is probably not going to forgive your sins.]

5. Catholic laymen may attend Mass at a Society of St. Pius X chapel without committing any sin nor incurring any canonical penalty. However, the PCED guidance is that it “cannot recommend” attendance at the Society of St. Pius X chapels due to the danger of imbibing a “schismatic mentality.”  [And we have seen that mentality among some lay people who frequent their chapels and give them support.] In other words, someone might find some Society priests fomenting division from full communion with the Church, their local Ordinary and/or the Holy Father in their sermons. The PCED’s recommendation is not to attend their chapels habitually, but they acknowledge there is no sin committed nor canonical penalty incurred resulting from attending Mass at SSPX chapels solely out of the desire to worship according to the 1962 missal and in order to fulfill their Sunday obligation.

6. The Society of St. Pius X is in an irregular canonical situation and an “internal matter” and therefore is not a case of ecumenical dialogue. [They are, in sense, Catholics on the slippery slope.]

7. Again, the correspondence from the PCED can be accepted and acted upon with “docility and moral certitude” by Catholics. The specific questions I asked were broad enough in nature to constitute an official response for Catholics to use as guidance.  [But they are not more than that.  They are not definitive or official.  They have weight and people can act on them with confidence.]

Catholic priests, bishops or laymen who contradict these specific responses seem to be out of step with the Church’s current official position.

My additional notes: While people can to some extent or reason agree with or disagree with the specific recommendations of the PCED or statements of Card. Castrillon, I would add this caution.

First, not everyone’s opinion is of equal weight.  Joe Bagofdonuts’ opinon is not going to be, probably, as good as mine, who have training and experience in these things at a level Joe doesn’t have.  My opinion is probably not going to be as good as that of a canonist, etc.  Our opinions are not as weighty as that of the President of the Commission which enjoys competence from the Lawgiver, the Vicar of Christ.  When the Cardinal speaks, his opinion has weight.  Joe really doesn’t have strong position to criticize the Cardinal in these matters, so perhaps he ought to pipe down and listen.

Second, some of the things, above, are based on Canon Law and on moral principles.  Those are not the sort of things we can disagree with because they are the general principles applied to the particular cases in question. 

This was interesting.  I hope this was useful for you!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. vox borealis says:

    Thank you Father Z. and Brian Mershon,

    This is most helpful and useful. I am curious, if commentary paragraph #5 is correct, then it is only OK to attend mass at a SSPX chapel to fulfill Sunday obligation–in other words, daily mass would be a no no?

    Also, if paragraph #5 is correct, the motivation to attend such a mass must be desie to worship according to the 1962 missal. Does that mean that Father SoAndSo’s sound and orthodox preaching would not constitute valid justification to attend?

    Thanks for all of your hard work. It is helping me to (slowly!) get a better grasp of documents and terminology that (I must confess) are difficult for me to understand.

  2. Jrny says:

    Fr. Z,

    I have a close friend who was just ordained a Deacon at the SSPX Seminary in Winona two weeks ago. I myself left the SSPX 9 years ago, while he went onto college and eventually into the seminary. Would there be a moral culpability on my part, in your opinion, if I were to attened his priestly ordination next year? I ask this because it would seem that attending an SSPX orination is of an entirely different nature than fulfilling one’s moral obligation to attend Mass on Sunday.


  3. Coletta says:

    Very helpful and interesting, thank you.

    When I listen to homilies online that do not identify the Priest speaking- I sometimes worry that they might be from SSPX. Do you think that should be matter of concern? I have not heard anything outrageous from them, if I did I would stop listening to that source. Any advice in this area?

  4. Cathguy says:


    Brian and Fr. Z, that was a VERY illuminating a thorough discussion of the issues at hand. I can’t think of a more illuminating read regarding this controversy in a long time.

    Clears a lot of smoke.


  5. Limbo says:

    Some clear clarifications.

    Thank you !

  6. Chris says:


    “I am curious, if commentary paragraph #5 is correct, then it is only OK to attend mass at a SSPX chapel to fulfill Sunday obligation—in other words, daily mass would be a no no?”

    Wow, Vox. YOU are one of the people this was intended for, I believe, and you’re living up to it already. Already you are trying to cause divide and a wedge.

    Do you need Card. Hoyos to come to your house and personally tell you this before you’re satisfied? [That was a little unfair. No? – Fr. Z]

  7. vox borealis says:


    Good heavens…I meant my question in all honesty. No attempt to create a wedge or a divide, or whatever other devious motivations you no doubt assume on my part. I read this blog because it’s smart and sophisticated, and because it answers difficult questions on complicated topics. I’m sorry you are offended because I asked a question. Cripes. Where’s that charity again?

  8. WOW! These are the most detailed, clear, and authoritative explanations of the whole SSPX situation I have ever seen. Thanks to Brian Mershon for compiling this and to Fr. Z. for posting and commenting on it.

    This is definitely required reading for any Catholic and jounalist covering the situation.

  9. Julie says:

    I take it this same logic would apply to attendance at/reception of sacraments from so called “independent” Latin Mass chapels (not SSPX-affiliated) as well? [I don’t think so. There are independent chapels staffed by priests who are gone way beyond the pale. I think we should stick to the SSPX in this entry. Fr. Z]

  10. I think vox’s Sunday obligation question merits clarification from the articles above, which may be a general principle that can happen outside the SSPX situation:

    If it is the only option possible, should one attend an illicit Mass in order to fulfill their Sunday obligation, or is the fact that the Mass is illicit a valid reason for missing the Sunday obligation?

    I think these questions need to be asked and responded to (charitably), given how we have already seen how subtile the canonical situation is at this point (seen by how much additional clarification Fr. Z. helped with in this post).

  11. Ioannes Andreades says:

    Fr. Z, in the sentence, “Then there are those who, for whatever reason, perhaps they are very stupid or perhaps they have some genuine psychological block, just can’t figure out or learn they truth, this is vinciable ignorance, which can’t be overcome,” did you mean to write “INvincible?” [Correction made.]

  12. Ttony says:

    Brian Mershon wrote to Cardinal Castrillon: “Would you please clarify the following for me in this private correspondence so that I can ensure that my family and I are following the current teaching of the Church on this specific matter?”

    Was there a separate leter asking if the Cardinal’s reply could be published on the Internet, or does the writer use the expression “private correspondence” in a Humptydumptyish sort of way?

  13. Very useful indeed, Father. We are all in need of clarification on this murky subject. I like your emphasis to the effect that the Holy See has not DECLARED the SSPX to be in total schism, and that does not mean that they ARE NOT. It is my fear that they in fact are, and will not move any further toward reconciliation than they have so far. But, “Fiat voluntas Tua.” With you and other holy priests storming the gates on heaven on their behalf, anything can happen !

  14. Supertradmom says:

    Father, Thank you so much for the clarification. As to the schismatic tendency, some of your bloggers might like to check out the long piece I have on my blog re: one of the leading priests in the SSPX. After discussions these past few days with some of my SSPX friends, I can see that they have adopted a mentality of separation, as they do not want to join the real Rome. I am very sad about this development.

  15. vox borealis says:

    Roman Sacristan,

    Thank you.

  16. Supertradmom says:

    I love your anti-spam word. I suggest “pray then blog” for all my Internet friends. As to illicit Masses fulfilling Sunday obligation, would that not go for all the NO Masses many of us have endured which were full of novelties and changes in opening prayers, odd translations of the Scriptures readings, etc. I am not referring to changes in the words of Consecration, as that would make the Mass invalid.

    What do you think of going to illicit TLMs in the past? [I think that that is in the past. Let’s be concerned about the future. – Fr. Z] Many good people have been ignorant of certain priest’s standing with the Bishop in their diocese and not known until later that the priest was saying the TLM outside of a Bishop’s permission, or that this constituted illegality-even after the Motu Proprio, as not all dioceses have i-mplemented that desire of our wonderful Pope.

  17. Kradcliffe says:

    This letter would have been helpful a few weeks ago, when we were in a dither about what to do during the summer months, when the diocesan EF won’t be available in Glasgow. I was distressed to see several members of the congregation plan to attend the SSPX… now, I feel that it should be alright, provided they are prepared to tune out any schismatic mentality in the homilies and they plan to return to the diocesan Mass in September.

    My husband and I still won’t go, though. We are both a bit put off by the attitude of “I will never attend the Novus Ordo!” and we can’t understand why people aren’t willing to just seek out the least-annoying Mass they can find when necessary. In our opinion, unless you’re wound too tight, a straight-forward, music-less Mass – the kind that is usually held at 8am or so and popular with the elderly – is really nothing to get upset about. Other than that, we really don’t want to even give the appearance of supporting something that we consider damaging and spiritually dangerous.

    After all, aren’t the priests who are peddling invalid absolution and marriages guilty of a very grave sin? I just can’t be part of the sea of faces before the pulpit that appears to condone that.

  18. Fr Ray Blake says:

    The invalidity of marriages is interesting, the only one I have come across was validated by a diocesan curial office retrospectively.
    If they are not valid would the Church go so far as to say that the couple are fornicating and in a sinful relationship or could one presume a moral impediment to the reception of the sacrament, the type of situation that might exist on a priestless desert island where the best [only] thing that could happen is the exchange of vows, preferrably in a public forum?

  19. mpm says:

    Fr. Z,

    Please re-edit the text, especially what you wrote — I think this article
    will be widely quoted and there are a number of typos that might confuse people.

  20. Supertradmom said: “As to illicit Masses fulfilling Sunday obligation, would that not go for all the NO Masses many of us have endured which were full of novelties and changes in opening prayers, odd translations of the Scriptures readings, etc. I am not referring to changes in the words of Consecration, as that would make the Mass invalid.

    I really didn’t want to go there, but I did think of that aspect. ;) I realize that many typical parishes break Canon #846 (which may be an example that answers the question vox borealis and I asked), but I really wanted to focus more on groups with an irregular canonical status, like the SSPX situation.

  21. Indignant Canonist says:


    In common error of fact OR OF LAW (Monsignor Perl fails to refer to common error of LAW, an omission which obviously arises from his pre-New Code studies)… the Church supplies executive power of governance both for the external and for the internal forum. (Canon 144)

    Error communis de iure est qui fundatur in facto per se apto ad inducendum omnes in errore de existentia iurisdictionis, licet forte de facto pauci prorsus vel nullus erraverit. Ut si sacerdos publice sedeat in confessionali, quasi spectans poenitentes. (Coronata)

    If a censure prohibits the celebration of the Sacraments or Sacramentals or the placing of an act of jurisdiction, the prohibition is suspended whenever it is necessary to take care of the faithful who are in danger of death; and if an automatic censure is not a declared one, the prohibition is also suspended whenever a member of the faithful requests a Sacrament, a Sacramental or an act of jurisdiction; this request can be made for any just cause whatsoever. (Canon 1335)

    Whenever necessity requires or genuine spiritual advantage suggests, and provided that the danger of error or indifferentism is avoided, it is lawful for the faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister, to receive the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers in whose churches these sacraments are valid. (Canon 844, #2)

    Without prejudice to the rule of #3 of this Canon, the faithful may for any just reason ask the Sacraments and Sacramentals from an excommunicated person especially if there is no other minister available, and the excommunicated person at their request may minister to them without any obligation to inquire into the reason for the request. (Canon 2261, #2) positive ad probable doubt about law or about fact, the Church supplies executive power of governance both for the external and for the internal forum. (Canon 144)

    [I am going to let the canonists duke this out. However, I know a couple of the canonists upon whom the PCED can call for consultation. They are top drawer. Fr. Z]

  22. Habemus Papam says:

    Re invalid marriage. I’ve always understood that the Sacrament of Marriage is confected by the man and wife, not the priest. Is that not so? [Marriage must also have the proper form. Part of the form involves whether the one who witnesses the marriage had the Church’s approval to witness it. – Fr. Z]

  23. Interesting post – which leads me to wonder.

    Regarding the regularization of the SSPX – what would the status of all of the sacraments that they have performed these past 20 years? It would seem that the solution to that issue could be the REAL sticking point to the discussions with Rome. The excommunications could be lifted to tomorrow, and the bishops and priests could be regularized in some acceptable form of Canonical structure, but wouldn’t that leave some million-odd faithful out in the cold – unmarried and unabsolved? Or is there some sort of provision for accepting these sacraments post-facto?

  24. Felipe Childers says:

    Remember, that no censure is incurred without the person having sinned.

    Tell that to St Joan.

  25. AP says:

    The bishops from Gabon (Africa) going to Rome to ask about the validity and lawfulness of the sacraments administered by Society (SSPX) mission priests there and whether they should record them in the sacramental registers of that country’s local churches. Rome answered the bishops that the sacraments of the Society must be recorded in the local registers. “Also the marriages?” the bishops asked. “Yes,” said Rome. That was the statement from Rome. With these words despite all the things you may have heard! Rome says that sacraments are to be considered valid. This is the policy in official Rome about sacraments administered by priests of the Society of Saint Pius X.

    If you examine the decree of Rome’s acknowledgment of the official existence of the Priestly Union of St. John Baptist Mary Vianney [Campos, Brazil], there is no mention regarding the years of marriages officiated by the Latin Mass priests of Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer. This means Rome considers these marriages valid. If they aren’t valid, Rome would have to say so and do something about it. The priests of the Society of Saint Pius X officiate at the sacrament of Matrimony no differently than did Bishop de Castro Mayer’s priests so this shows what official Rome thinks of the Society’s work. This is interesting, because it settles the confusion around this important question. So many opinions; even in Rome, you get different answers.

  26. Joe says:

    Habemus papam; yes, but it requires the blessing of the Church for validity. A marriage without proper canonical form (the approval and blessing of the Church) is invalid. This is analogous to the Eastern (Catholic) Churches where the blessing of the Priest itself confers the Sacrament.

  27. Garrett says:

    “The Sacraments of Penance and Matrimony, however, require that the priest enjoys the faculties of the diocese or has proper delegation. Since that is not the case with these priests, these sacraments are invalid.”

    So, does this mean that Penance and Matrimony in the Eastern Orthodox Churches are likewise invalid?

    And since, in Western/Augustianian theology, it is the couple, not the priest, who confers the Sacrament of Matrimony upon each other, why does the lack of faculties of SSPX come into play here?

  28. Brian Day says:

    Indignant Canonist,

    Great. You can cite chapter and verse of Canon Law. So?

    What are your conclusions? What are you citing that contradicts what was written the original post? You didn’t say, and it is not obvious from your response what you are getting at. Please explain.

  29. Habemus Papam says:

    A man married in an Anglican Church, divorced from his wife, meets a single Catholic woman and cannot marry her in tne Catholic Church because in the sight of God he is Married to the first woman. Correct?

  30. Rachel says:

    :( This makes me sad because my Fiance and I went through lots of heartache about this. He used to go to the seminary in Winona but that was a couple of years ago and he hasn’t gone to the SSPX chapels much after that. Apparently, the priest who is going to be performing our wedding said that my fiance was basically out of the Church because he went to SSPX chapels. In fact, another woman who had also gone to SSPX chapels had to get a letter from her previous diocese saying that she has been received back into the Church. Basically around here, if you are associated with the SSPX in any way, you are considered out of the Church and have to be received back in. This has caused a LOT of heartache and now we see this from the good Cardinal. It still doesn’t change the poor treatment we have been given about this :( :(.

  31. Felipe Childers says:

    The couple may confer the sacrament, but lack of faculties comes into play for the same reason that if a Catholic couple get married in an Anglican Church, their marriage is invalid. Catholics must give their consent to marry before two witnesses and an authorised Church authority, except were a dispensation has been given by legitimate Church authority, if their marriage is to be valid.


  32. Indignant Canonist says:

    AP, you are mistaken. There was indeed a sanatio in radice of the marriages performed by the Campos priests, exclusion made of those couples already separated, who were left free to marry.

    The story of Gabon was related by Bishop Fellay. I believe he believed it, but I do not believe it to be true.

    All this being said, I believe in the validity of marriages and confessions by SSPX priests.

  33. Indignant Canonist says:

    Brian Day,

    Those that matter will read and understand.

  34. vox borealis says:

    A child asks his father if he can watch a movie on TV on Saturday afternoon. The father responds that it is ok, but only if he finished cleaning his room, if he ate lunch, if the movie is appropriate, and if the weather outside is threatening (otherwise, he should play outdoors). The child then says to his mother on the way to the TV room, “Dad said I could watch the movie.”

    Discussions on this topic strike me as all too similar to the little parable above. The child in my story didn’t really lie by repeating what his father said, he certainly distorted the meaning, and it is unclear that the conditions for permission were met. So too Cardinal Castrillon (for example) gives fairly elaborate statements regarding some aspect of the SSPX, but people only hear what they want to hear (and I am often just as guilty), and repeat the parts that serve their own ends.

    In the past I have made numerous incorrect statement regarding the SSPX, especially with regards to the status of their clergy (there was a long thread on this blog only a few days ago). I am willing to admit my errors in those cases.

    At the same time, the question remains as to when exactly it is OK for lay faithful to attend mass at a SSPX chapel. Many defenders of the society, and I know some and read the words of others, will pick up on part of the above clarification–it’s not a sin to attend. But clearly the cardinal says more than that; there do appear to be additional conditions that must be met. Moreover, the very fact that he takes a tone of caution, recommending against habitual attendance, worrying about schismatic attitude, etc., suggests that this his clarification is not carte blanche.

    When is is acceptable to attend, and when is it not? What/when are the limits? This is a surely crucial question.

    Now, before I am accused of heresy, or stirring up dissent, or sowing division, or any other nefarious behavior, and lest anyone think that I am some rabid liberal bent on women priests, etc., let it be known that I am a great supporter of the EF. I am fortunate in that I attend a former indult EF mass in the city where I live–no need for me to attend the SSPX chapel across town. Moreover, when I travel to my hometown to visit family, I go to EF mass at my old parish; when I visit the in-laws I choose from three or so EF masses; when I teach in Florence I go to mass at the Una Voce church of S. Francesco Poverino, or I visit the ICKSP seminary in Gricigliano.

    Indeed, as an old teacher used to say, I do not “have a dog in this fight,” for my spiritual hunger is nourished without my having to resort to the SSPX.

    At the same time, I am Catholic and I do long for greater unity within the Mystical Body. I am also deeply curious and concerned. And I believe that it would be in the best interests of the Church (in my humble and often flawed perspective) to issue very clear guidelines and “rules” and conditions for the laity vis-a-vis the SSPX; these should be made public and well-publicized, to limit the excuse of ignorance. I for one, but also I think many others, would welcome the clarity.

    Finally, by making this statement and asking these questions, I do hope that other folks who post on this site do not feel threatened and accuse me of dastardly dealing.

    As always, thank you Father Z. for the amazing work that you are doing–it is much appreciated.

  35. Supertradmom says:

    OK, the Sacrament of Matrimony is conferred between the two-husband and wife. However, the Sacrament is more than that, as defined in the Catechism. “The priest or deacon who assists at the celebration of a marriage receives the consent of the spouses in the name of the Church and gives the blessing of the Church. The presence of the Church’s minister)and also of the witnesses) visibly expresses the fact that marriage is an ecclesial reality. This is the reason why the Church normally requires that the faithful contract marriage according to the ecclesial form…Sacramental marriage is a liturgical act. It is there fore appropriate that it should be celebrated in the public liturgy of the Church; Marriage introduces one into an ecclesial order, and creates rights and duties in the Church between the spouses and towards their children.”

    More may be read in the section in the Catechism “The Seven Sacraments of the Church”, starting at 1621.

  36. Christopher Sarsfield says:


    I think you are mistake about Eastern Catholic marriage theology. It is the teaching in Orthodoxy that the priest confers the Sacrament, and I believed it was also the case for the Eastern Rite Catholics (as you do) until I met a priest who serves on marriage tribunals for the an Eastern Rite Diocese. When asked about this, he told me I was under a common misunderstanding, and that if I looked at the Code of Canon Law for Eastern Churches, I would notice the canons on marriage are exactly the same as the west. So in the Eastern Catholic Church the couple is the minister of the sacrament.

  37. Supertradmom says:

    I have helped with marriage problems in RCIA in England, as well as the United States, and the answer to Habemus Papam is that annulments are necessary either when there is a Catholic and Catholic involved, a Catholic and non-Catholic involved, AND, more recently, in marriages between two Protestants, including Anglicans. These annulments are required. This is to end any doubt as to a possible validity of sacrament between the two involved.

  38. FloridaJohn says:

    Julie asked above “I take it this same logic would apply to attendance at/reception of sacraments from so called “independent” Latin Mass chapels (not SSPX-affiliated) as well?”
    I’m asking, “What about receiving Holy Communion?” Can we receive at the SSPX Mass or “independent” chapel Mass? This is important for me to know cause the only Latin Mass nearby is a store front chapel!

  39. Habemus Papam says:

    Id there an Authority on Marriage in the house? I am preety certain that an Anglican marriage is valid for the same reason that an Anglican baptism is valid. Matter, form and intent do not require a priest.

  40. Supertradmom says:

    Apologies for the typos above-what seems to be making the Sacrament of Matrimony in the SSPX invalid is the canonical status of the Bishops-the excommunication, which makes the marriages de facto invalid. This is not a question, therefore, of who confers the sacrament, but the relationship between the priests and the Church. The lifting of the excommunication ban would most likely change the validity of the marriages, therefore. One must distinguish between the cause of the invalidity of the marriage, the material cause here being that the couple’s status was blessed by suspended priests under excommunicated bishops. This would be the same case if a couple were married by a female priest. This is a hard truth for many SSPXers.

    The Church is not recognizing the SSPX marriages as valid.

    Confession is easier to understand, thankfully.

  41. Habemus Papam says:

    Supertradmom: I posted past you but my point remains. The two baptised Christians confect the Sacrament. They are the Matter, their vows the Form and their intention to keep those vows the Intent. The priest witnesses the marriage on behalf of the Church but this is custom not necessary for validity. No?

  42. Supertradmom says:

    Habemus Papm, all Christian Baptisms are valid, and all people are technically Baptized into the Catholic Church, but become “heretics” or “schismatics” very quickly after the age of reason when they choose their church/denomination, whatever. Marriage and Confession must occur under the approved jurisdiction of a Bishop to be valid. This is why the excommunicated bishops have confused their followers. Any priest, traveling or coming into a diocese for a retreat, must received permission from the local ordinary into order to hear Confession and confer Absolution. Marriage is under the same rules-see above.

  43. Felipe Childers says:

    No, it is not “custom”. It is necessary for validity.

  44. The comments from Mr Brian Mershon and this PCED letter (not from Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos himself, probably sent again by Msgr Perl who has often alleged the same) on the supposed “invalidity” of confessions and marriages within the SSPX are pure nonsense, canonical hogwash, with all due respect.

    It seems some persons seem to like being able to claim “invalidity” about other persons’ sacraments. The Orthodox do so about the Catholics, and the neocons among the post-conciliar Catholics do so not about the Orthodox but about “traditionalists” and sedevacantists, upholding spurious claims without any basis in Canon Law, Catholic doctrine on the sacraments and theology. They do not like those groups, so they like to point out “invalidity”.

    Well, in Campos no marriages and absolutions were declared invalid or “sanatized”. In Africa SSPX marriages are entered into diocesan registries (e.g. in Gabon). In case of the Bordeaux churches of the Abbés Laguérie and Aulagnier, no sanatio in radice was required from the couples.

    The Church supplies jurisdiction – every faithful who believes (even if incorrectly) that somehow the priest to whom they confess has faculties (be they ordinary or extraordinary), receives valid absolution.

    The case of marriage is even more clear – a Catholic couple who cannot contact a priest for three months without grave difficulty, may marry without an official pastor validly, even though assistance of a cleric without ordinary jurisdiction is advised in this case. This is how SSPX priests are to be seen in those instances.

    Who would dare to claim that those Eastern Catholics who in Siberia had no Catholic priest to contact due to the martial law in 1946 in that region, married invalidly before a priest clandestinely ordained by a Catholic illegally consecrated bishop from the Ukrainians?

    Who would claim such a thing?


    And even if they were mistaken and could have approached a local Latin Catholic priest whom they thought was a German-heretical Old-Catholic Döllingerite pastor, they still married validly.

    The SSPX Marriages and Absolutions in Confession are 100 % valid.

    If not, then the Vatican lied in Campos, Bordeaux, in Einsiedeln in 1988 (to Fr. Bisig, who very well knows the real situation of canon law).

    Go and seek other things to bash about. Go and bash Bp. Williamson for being an “antisemite” like Mr Thompson likes to do, but folks with political interests (Msgr. Perle from PCED) and personal dislike (Mershon), should seek other things to “attack” and declare “invalid” (wholly outside their capacity).

    The PCED has nothing to say about the validity of sacraments and these questions of Canon Law. This is an unofficial reply from PCED anyway.

    Dear Fr. Z.,

    I hope you accept this post of mine.

  45. Indignant Canonist says:

    Supertradmom, no. The excommunicated SSXP bishops have nothing to do with the case for or
    against the validity of marriages/confessions. Before 1988 the issue was already on the table.

  46. Brian Day says:

    Indignant Canonist,

    Thank you for such a charitable response.

  47. Supertradmom says:

    Thanks for the clarification. Do you have a source I can read on this? I did not hear about the invalidity situations until after 1988 and would find this useful

  48. Indignant Canonist says:

    Zeliwinski, there was a sanatio in radice for Campos marriages, exclusion made of those couples already separated, who were left free to marry. This is not a secret, it is public domain. A decree of Bishop Rifan informed the faithful of this decision. Ask the Apostolic Administration for a copy.

    The story of Gabon was related by Bishop Fellay. I believe he believed it, but I do not believe it to be true.

  49. Par. 4 of the answers is Canonical NONSENSE. (As we can see, there is no canon invoked.)

    I do not like many Eastern schismatics from e.g. the Russian dissident church (“Moscow Patriarchate”) either. Yet, I would never dare to question the validity of their confessions and marriages – nor did any Pope in history do so. But they lack ordinary jurisdiction due to schism and heresy, this is why in 1853 it had to be confirmed that due to tacit approval the Holy See had accepted that even dissident (read: schismatic) Eastern priests could validly confirm children and others, even though not having the official dispensation needed for it, nor the Catholic faith which is needed to validly hold an office in the Church. (Cf. Fr. Wilhelm De Vries S.J., Münster, Germany.)

    I would never dare to question their sacraments, or cause confusion and mental distress or anxiety among those formerly or still belonging to the Eastern schismatic (and heretical) churches on sacramental validity. Former Orthodox now Catholics would also be brought into distress greatly.

    Anyhow, the blind repetition of the par. 4 (the typical Msgr. Camille Perl allegation I have come to know as a specialist) does not speak for the impartiality of Brian Mershon and the replier.

    Then, Dear Mr Mershon,

    Who replied? I am sure it was Msgr. C.P.

    As a spie on the Vatican, I could reveal a lot more of him, but I do not. I am a Roman Catholic and a moral person, a Christian, who does not want to cause mental despair and anxiety even among those with whose opinions I do not agree.

    I think Mr. Mershon and Msgr. Camille should learn from that.

    Please dear Fr. Zuhlsdorf, correct the par. 4 – it’s full of lies. [Hmmm… “full of lies”… well… that’s a “no” vote from you. However, since this involves an answer from an office of the Holy See, I think I will let it stand. The canonists can have it out. In the meantime, tone down the aggressive language, please. – Fr. Z] I invite you to contact Rev. Laguérie from the Institut du Bon Pasteur on how things were settled there – on the alleged “invalidity” of the marriages and absolutions in their churches before 9.2006.

    Pax et bonum omnibus vobis!

  50. Garrett says:

    So, then, Eastern Orthodox marriages and confessions are invalid, no?

  51. Supertradmom says:

    If the document/answer is signed by Darío Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, it is official. Signatures in the Vatican are always important.

  52. Rome in 1439 never went about ranting on the Ethiopians and Constantinople Byzantines’ ‘invalid marriages’ and ‘invalid confessions and absolutions’. And justly so. She did not even do so in 1901 – after the schism in 1459 had become totally formal and consummated.

    The Church supplies jurisdiction. I know nothing about an allegation “sanatio” in Campos – it would be very grave indeed if this happened. In the IBP it never happened, in Gabon and other countries it never happened.

    Anyway, the SSPX faithful need not be correct on the crisis, but even errors are supplied for by the Church in canonical matters. This is not subjectivism – in fact it protects from subjectivism and sectarian thought coming in this instance from PCED official Msgr. Camille Perle.

  53. Paul Haley says:

    The Campos situation may indeed be instructive here. Once suspensions are removed are not then the sacraments previously confected by the priests concerned recognized as valid? This is assuming there was no defect of matter, form or intention in the original confections. And, in the matter of Matrimony are not those getting married the agents in confecting the sacrament whereas the priest/minister is the witness? And, finally, isn’t the church saying it either recognizes or does not recognize the marriage and not ruling on its validity which is subject to the matter, form and intent requirements. Of course, the licitness of the marriage is a totally different matter and that’s where faculties are involved. What say you, Father Zuhlsdorf?

  54. Cathguy says:

    Hi all,

    I think the question vis a vis the Orthodox is a good one. We are told that the Orthodox have valid sacraments, including confession and marriage.

    And the SSPX do not? I guess I would like a good explanation about how this seeming contradiction can be worked out.

    I am NOT trying to be mean or argumentative here. Please don’t misread me. I am looking for and am open to an explanation. I am tired of being assaulted. I was just over at Catholic answers. Talk about hostility to tradition! Geesh..

  55. Catholic says:

    Call me stupid, but I am more confused now than before I read all this. What a horrible mess and VatII is the culprit and no one else. And I don’t even know an SSPXer. [Perhaps the confusion results not so much from V2 but from groups who break with the Holy See? – Fr. Z]

  56. JM says:

    I have known couples who had their attempted sspx marriages convalidated after they began attending traditional parishes in communion with the Church.

    I’m sure that none of the SSPX supporters will believe that, but it is true.

  57. Kavi says:

    “I think the question vis a vis the Orthodox is a good one. We are told that the Orthodox have valid sacraments, including confession and marriage.

    And the SSPX do not? I guess I would like a good explanation about how this seeming contradiction can be worked out.”

    Second that.

  58. Indignant Canonist says:

    Zeliwinski, of course it is from Mgr Perl, that is precisely what Mershon explains. Just read the first paragraph.

    I do agree with you, fully. But the problems are there.

    There was indeed a sanatio in Campos of hundres of marriages, and those who had since separated were not included. Unfortunately, the Rota considers the SSPX marriages invalid for defect of canonical form.

    For St. Eloi’s marriages, I would not be surprised if they are also convalidated. Unless a properly trained canonist determined that common error of law took place in that case, as it certainly did. Perl does not even know what comkmon error of law is, since he only mentions common error of fact in his sentence “if the faithful are genuinely ignorant that the priests of the Society of St. Pius X do not have proper faculty to absolve, the Church supplies these faculties.”

  59. Felipe Childers says:

    Jimmy Akin addressed the EO/SSPX comparison by arguing that Eastern Orthodox priests are not subject to Latin canon law (can. 11) – and so can. 966, re: faculties, is irrelevant to them. SSPX priests, on the other hand, are subject to Latin canon law.

    It would be useful if a trained canonist could comment, because a lot of uninformed laypeople scrabbling about in canon law rarely results in much good.

  60. Kavi says:

    P.S. – It seems to me that the validity of the Orthodox marriages/reconciliation involves more than a mere “tacit understanding” – Church discipline notwithstanding. This heightens my confusion re:SSPX as such a statement would seem to have more weight than a formal declaration of Schism.

  61. prof. basto says:

    How does one reconcile this statement by the PCED with the 1996 Note by the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, according to which SSPX priests are formal adherents to the canonical crime of schism?




    Sulla scomunica per scisma in cui incorrono gli aderenti al movimento del Vescovo Marcel Lefebvre

    (Communicationes, 29 [1997] 239–243)

    Dopo le notizie diffuse recentemente da alcuni media questo Pontificio Consiglio ha ritenuto opportuno rendere di pubblico dominio una Nota esplicativa dallo stesso inviata alla Congregazione per i Vescovi.

    Città del Vaticano, 24 agosto 1996

    Eminenza Reverendissima,

    Con lettera del 26 luglio c.a., Prot. N. XXX, l’Eminenza Vostra Reverendissima inviava a questo Pontificio Consiglio una lettera di S. E. Mons. Norbert Brunner, Vescovo di Sion nella Svizzera, nella quale il Presule – attese alcune confuse informazioni di stampa – chiedeva l’interpretazione autorevole del Motu Proprio « Ecclesia Dei » e del Decreto successivo di codesta Congregazione concernenti la scomunica comminata nel confronti del Vescovo Marcel Lefebvre, dei quattro Vescovi da lui ordinati e del Vescovo emerito Antonio de Castro. Nel contempo, l’Eminenza Vostra domandava il parere di questo Dicastero circa i termini della risposta da dare al su menzionato Presule.

    In merito, mi pregio significarle che il problema prospettato dall’Ordinario di Sion non sembra esigere una interpretazione autentica né del Motu Proprio « Ecclesia Dei » del 2 luglio 1988, né del Decreto di codesta Congregazione per i Vescovi del 1 luglio 1988, né dei canoni relativi del CIC: 1364, § 1 e 1382.

    Il Presule infatti fonda la Sua richiesta su esigenze d’indole pastorale, per porre fine ad erronee interpretazioni, ma non offre alcun elemento che prospetti l’esistenza o la probabilità fondata di un autentico « dubium iuris » nella normativa dei predetti documenti, condizione indispensabile per una « interpretazione autentica ».

    Ciononostante, per venire incontro alla richiesta di codesto Dicastero, si offrono nell’unita Nota, alcune considerazione e suggerimenti con la speranza che possano essere di utilità per la risposta chiarificatrice che codesta Congregazione intende dare al Vescovo di Sion.

    Se invece, la confusione di cui parla li Presule nella Sua lettera fosse rilevante dal punto di vista pastorale, anche perché estesa ad altre diocesi e nazioni dove opera il movimento lefebvriano, si potrebbe ipotizzare una dichiarazione generale della Santa Sede, da preparare in collaborazione con la Congregazione per la Dottrina della Fede (cf. Nota, n.5).

    Profitto della circostanza per confermarmi con sensi di profonda venerazione

    dell’Eminenza Vostra Reverendissima

    Julián Herranz,
    Arcivescovo tit. di Vertara

    Marino Maccarelli


    1. Dal Motu proprio « Ecclesia Dei » del 2 luglio 1988 e dal Decreto « Dominus Marcellus Lefebvre » della Congregazione per i Vescovi, del 1 luglio 1988, appare innanzitutto che lo scisma di Monsignor Lefebvre è stato dichiarato in relazione immediata con le ordinazioni episcopali compiute il 30 giugno 1988 senza mandato pontificio (cf. CIC, can. 1382). Tuttavia appare anche chiaramente dal predetti documenti che tale gravissimo atto di disobbedienza ha costituito la consumazione di una progressiva situazione globale d’indole scismatica.

    2. In effetti, il n. 4 del Motu proprio spiega quale sia stata la « radice dottrinale di questo atto scismatico » e il n. 5 c) ammonisce che una « adesione formale allo scisma » (dovendosi intendere per tale « il movimento dell’Arcivescovo Lefebvre ») comporterebbe la scomunica stabilita dal diritto universale della Chiesa (CIC, can. 1364, § 1). Anche il decreto della Congregazione per i Vescovi fa esplicito riferimento alla « natura scismatica » delle predette ordinazioni episcopali e ricorda la gravissima pena di scomunica che comporterebbe l’adesione « allo scisma di Monsignor Lefebvre ».

    3. Purtroppo, l’atto scismatico che ha originato il Motu proprio ed il Decreto non ha fatto altro che portare a termine, in un modo particolarmente visibile ed inequivoco – con un gravissimo atto formale di disobbedienza al Romano Pontefice – un processo di allontanamento dalla communio hierarchica. Finché non vi siano cambiamenti che conducano al ristabilimento di questa necessaria communio, tutto il movimento lefebvriano è da ritenersi scismatico, esistendo al riguardo una formale dichiarazione della Suprema Autorità.

    4. Non si può fornire alcun giudizio sulle argomentazione della discussa tesi del Murray perché non è nota, e i due articoli che ne accennano appaiono confusi. Comunque non può essere ragionevolmente messa in dubbio la validità delle scomuniche dei Vescovi dichiarata nel Motu proprio e nel Decreto. In particolare non sembra che si possa trovare, quanto all’imputabilità della pena, qualche circostanza esimente o attenuante (Cf. CIC, cann. 1323–1324). Quanto allo stato di necessità in cui Mons. Lefebvre pensasse di trovarsi, va tenuto presente che tale stato deve verificarsi oggettivamente, e che non si dà mai una necessità di ordinare Vescovi contro la volontà del Romano Pontefice, Capo del Collegio dei Vescovi. Ciò infatti significherebbe la possibilità di « servire » la Chiesa mediante un attentato contro la sua unità in materia connessa con i fondamenti stessi di questa unità.

    5. Come dichiara il Motu proprio n. 5 c), la scomunica latae sententiae per scisma riguarda coloro che « aderiscono formalmente » a detto movimento scismatico. Anche se la questione sull’esatta portata della nozione « adesione formale allo scisma » andrebbe posta alla competente Congregazione per la Dottrina detta fede, sembra a questo Pontificio Consiglio che tale adesione debba implicare due elementi complementari:

    a) uno di natura interna, consistente nel condividere liberamente e coscientemente la sostanza dello scisma, ossia nell’optare in tal modo per i seguaci di Lefebvre che si metta tale opzione al di sopra dell’obbedienza al Papa (alla radice di questo atteggiamento vi saranno abitualmente posizioni contrarie al Magistero della Chiesa);

    b) un altro d’indole esterna, consistente nell’esteriorizzazione di quell’opzione, il cui segno più manifesto sarà la partecipazione esclusiva agli atti « ecclesiali » lefebvriani, senza prendere parte agli atti della Chiesa Cattolica (si tratta comunque di un segno non univoco, poiché c’è la possibilità che qualche fedele prenda parte alle funzioni liturgiche dei seguaci di Lefebvre senza condividere però il loro spirito scismatico).

    6. Nel caso dei diaconi e dei sacerdoti lefebvriani sembra indubbio che la loro attività ministeriale nell’ambito del movimento scismatico è un segno più che evidente del fatto che si danno i due requisiti di cui sopra (n. 5) e che vi è quindi una adesione formale.

    7. Nel caso invece degli altri fedeli è ovvio che non è sufficiente, perché si possa parlare di adesione formale al movimento, una partecipazione occasionale ad atti liturgici od attività del movimento lefebvriano, fatta senza far proprio l’atteggiamento di disunione dottrinale e disciplinare di tale movimento. Nella pratica pastorale può risultare più difficile giudicare la loro situazione. Occorre tener conto sopratutto dell’intenzione della persona, e della traduzione in atti di tale disposizione interiore. Le varie situazioni vanno perciò giudicate caso per caso, nelle sedi competenti di foro esterno e foro interno.

    8. Comunque sarà sempre necessario distinguere la questione morale sull’esistenza o meno del peccato di scisma dalla questione giuridico–penale sull’esistenza del delitto di scisma e la sua conseguente sanzione. A quest’ultimo vanno applicate le disposizioni del Libro VI del CIC (anche i cann. 1323–1324).

    9. Non sembra consigliabile formalizzare di più (ma bisognerebbe interpellare in merito il Dicastero competente: cf. Cost. Ap. « Pastor Bonus », art. 52) i requisiti per il delitto di scisma. Si rischierebbe forse di creare più problemi mediante un irrigidimento normativo di tipo penale, che non colga bene tutti i casi: lasciando fuori casi di scisma sostanziale, o contemplando comportamenti esterni che non sono sempre soggettivamente scismatici.

    10. Sempre dal punto di vista pastorale sembrerebbe anche opportuno raccomandare ulteriormente ai sacri Pastori tutte le norme del Motu proprio « Ecclesia Dei » con le quali la sollecitudine del Vicario di Cristo stimolava al dialogo e a porre i mezzi soprannaturali ed umani necessari per facilitare il ritorno dei lefebvriani alla piena comunione ecclesiale.

    Città del Vaticano, 24 agosto 1996 [I read Italian, so fine. But I don’t know how helpful it is to paste this in here. – Fr. Z]

  62. Habemus Papam says:

    Paul Haley: Yes. As recognised by the Council of Trent a union of two baptised persons is in itself a Sacrament.

  63. LCB says:

    The Church supplies jurisdiction in cases of grave necessity or invincible ignorance, as I understand it.

    Desert Island for 3 months (marriage), or dying in the streets= grave necessity.
    Refusing to go to a priest approved by the local ordinary does not = grave necessity

    Honestly not knowing that the minister can not validly minister the sacrament in question= invincible ignorance
    Reading a response from the PCED that eliminates any doubt does not= invincible ignorance

    Just because someone repeats something over and over again doesn’t make it true, the fact must conform with reality.

    It seems that some here are making the same mistake as ultra liberals: refusing to acknowledge the Petrine See’s authority to legislate on sacramental matters, which is sometimes rooted in a refusal to acknowledge the Petrine See.

  64. LCB says:

    Serious question, that may be off topic:

    Why can’t the requirements for valid ordination and consecration be modified to include appropriate ministerial permission from the appropriate authorities? That would seem to eliminate all sorts of renegade problems.

  65. Kavi says:

    @ basto – yes, however, if my bad Italian serves (read:converted Latin) I’m not sure this constitutes a “formal declaration of schism”. That the SSPX are de facto “in schism” is probably true, but a formal declaration would require more than this.

    @ Habemus – the Roman Church’s declarations on marriage are a garden of many strange flowers. In my poor understanding, one must distinguish between (a) the Sacrament of Marriage and (b) marriage. The latter is any union between baptized persons, which would require an annulment, for instance. Now the question is whether we understand a = b or if a (as per the understanding of the Orthodox Churches) constitutes something theologically greater. I.e., does the blessing of an Uniate, obedient Priest impart a unique grace to the marriage? Only if this latter meaning is indeed the case can I imagine the SSPX marriages as being theologically “Invalid”, UNLESS there is some additional disciplinary action involved which is particular to the SSPX’s case.

    Any clarification would be welcome.

  66. Cathguy says:

    First, thank you all for the civility of these postings.

    Jimmy Akin’s (arguably no friend of tradition…) explanation doesn’t cut it for me. I need an authoritative explanation.

    When I first read this piece, I thought it was outstanding. But the questions vis. a vis. the Orthodox did not develop in my mind until someone else here raised the question.

    The EO are not united with Rome; the SCHISM happened around 1000 AD.

    Yet we are told that they have valid sacraments, ACROSS THE BOARD, including marriage and confession. (I believe this to be true)

    We are also told that the SSPX MAY not be in schism at all, and instead are in an “irregular canonical standing.”

    So, the EO who ARE in Schism but have valid orders enjoy all valid sacraments, and the SSPX, who only MAY be in schism but have valid orders, have invalid marriages and confessions? Why not? Jurisdiction? How do the EO enjoy jurisdiction, there were mutual excommunications (that have since been lifted) AND a formal SCHISM (that remains!)? That sounds like putting the letter of the law in direct opposition to the spirit of the law. It sounds almost pharisaical to make the claim that the Orthodox have valid Sacraments, and the SSPX, who recognize the nature of the Papacy, do not.

    Again, please don’t assault me. I am open to correction here.

    BUT. I think SSPXers will find this claim simultaneously insulting and off putting. I am not even one of them. However, the more I read, and the more I dialog with angry neo-Catholics, the more I am convinced of the validity of some SSPX positions. After all, history has proven them correct on the question of whether or not the old Mass was ever abrogated already. What else are they right about?

    I am just asking the question.

  67. Supertradmom says:

    Indignant Canonist,

    Am very interested in pre-1988 canonical status or questionings re: SSPX and Sacraments. Can you supply some sources for us?

    Good point from Kavi re: grace, which is imparted by the Sacrament vs. invalidity and therefore no grace…Can you clarify, Indignant C? And, for the record, fssp priest regularly tell parishioners to not go to SSPX “reconciliation”, confession, as I know first-hand


  68. Tim Ferguson says:

    Habemus Papam – yes, according to the teaching and the law of the Latin Church, marriage is brought about by consent exchanged between two parties. For baptized Catholics, however, an additional element is required in law – that of having present as official witness a bishop, priest or deacon (or in certain rare circumstances, a layperson) with jurisdiction to assist, canons 1108-1112 in the Code. This is usually called “Canonical Form.”

    A Catholic who marries outside of the Church, without a dispensation from canonical form, is not considered married – and his freedom to marry can be established relatively easily.

    Occasionally, there are defects of canonical form, which can be retroactively corrected, or “sanated,” such as was done with the Campos marriages, where a sanation was granted for the marriages which had been celebrated by priests without proper delegation. Sometimes, through simple error, a priest will forget to ask for a required dispensation and realize it some time after the wedding. In these cases, too, a sanation can be granted, retroactively validating the marriage.

    Eastern Catholic form is similar, though it requires the presence of a bishop or priest, not a deacon (I don’t have my Eastern Code handy, so I’d best no go into all the wrinkles involved there).

    We understand the Eastern Orthodox Church to be a true Church, and so capable of legislation and jurisdiction for the Eastern Orthodox faithful. They have their own law regarding canonical form, which is similar. Hence, if we have an Eastern Orthodox man, who was married to a Protestant in a Protestant Church, with no dispensation given, we would consider that man free to marry – since his marriage did not follow the canonical form to which he is bound by law, despite the fact that he did exchange consent.

    Anglicans and Protestants are not recognized as having Churches per se, and so their adherents are simply bound by the natural law of marriage – that is, the exchange of consent between a man and a woman capable of doing so (not impeded by close consanguinity, age, crime, prior bond or the other natural diriment impediments).

  69. Kavi says:


    Is the problem, therefore, with SSPX marriage and reconciliation the fact that they are NOT officially in schism? I.e., if they were a “schismatic Church” than they could be a Church (as per the Orthodox) and have jurisdiction over their own Sacraments? But as it is, they are still under Roman jurisdiction, and therefore require the blessing of a priest in full union and obedience with Rome?

    That sound like what you were saying, but there’s still fluff in the brain…

  70. Cathguy says:

    Ferguson, I say THANK YOU as well.

    I think that answers my questions nicely.


  71. Supertradmom says:

    All need annulments as stated above,if wanting to remarry – thereby implying valid if not merely illegal marriages. [No, it doesn’t imply valid marriages. The reason is found in your improper term “annulment”. The Church makes “declarations of nullity”, namely, that what there is is null, that a marriage never existed. It does not given an “annulment”, which would, as the word means, “make the marriage null”. So, a declaration of nullity does not imply that there was ever anything valid. It merely states that there was never anything at all. – Fr. Z] Thank you Mr. Ferguson, for restating what I wrote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. And, for all interested, laypersons can be canon lawyers, not merely priests. I am assuming some writing here are canonists, and not merely “ignorant laypersons”. Thanks again, but the SSPX question remains as Kavi notes.

  72. Piers-the-Ploughman says:

    What about marrianges and absolution performed by clergy in the Patriotic Catholic Church of China? It would be good to know about Campos and other places from people who are actually there and in charge. Does Bishop Rifan read this blog?

    We had been told the TLM was abrogated for years only last year to discover in fact it had never been abrogated.

    Really now, it is time for the SSPX to come back and get all resolved for sake of the Church. The recovery will happen with or without them, but it will be stronger, sooner if they will work with the Holy Father.

  73. Tim Ferguson says:

    Supertradmom – I’m one of those lay canonists of whom you speak (with a JCL from the University of St. Paul in Ottawa, 2005).

    Kavi, I think that’s a very good point you make – the Polish National Catholic Church, in contrast, which is clearly in a schismatic position, validly witnesses the marriages of their adherents, since they have jurisdiction.

    One main issue with the SSPX has been – whether or not they are schismatic – that they do not have “faithful” in the same sense as the Polish National Catholic Church. They have Roman Catholics who may attend regularly, but who do not “belong” to the SSPX in the same way that PNC’ers belong to the PNC.

  74. Supertradmom says:

    Thank you, Mr. Ferguson. So, if the SSPX are in schism, their marriages are valid, and if they are not in schism, the marriages are invalid? Just checking.

  75. Supertradmom says:

    PS understanding that you might not be able to answer the question as to whether they are in the position of a church within the Church, therefore, not schismatic, as there has been no formal declaration of schism, with invalid matrimony and confession…

  76. prayatmass says:

    Wow…even more confusion to add to this diabolical mess. Isn’t the highest law in canon law supposed to be the good of souls?

  77. prof. basto says:


    No. The invalidity of those Sacraments arises simply out of the lack of jurisdiction to grant absolution and to witness marriages, irrespective of the bigger question of schism.

    The SSPX bishops were validly ordained, but since they were not canonically appointed, they have no jurisdiction. Also, the SSPX priests lack facuties granted by the local Bishop to assist at marriages or hear confessions.

  78. Isn’t there a difference between a marriage and a Sacramental marriage? Even though the couple in an SSPX marriage might be married, it does not necessarily mean that they have received the actual Sacrament (with all it’s blessings and graces).
    I believe this would be similar to a common law marriage, which is considered a marriage, but is not Sacramental, and thus needs to be convalidated by the Church.
    I do admit though, that I am not an expert on the theology of marriage and the Sacramental form of marriage.

  79. Fr J says:

    Has the SSPX been formally suppressed as a Canonical entity? If it hasn’t, then wouldn’t it’s Superior have the same power to grant faculties as Superiors of other societies of apostolic life?

  80. Valentino says:

    I know someone personally,and have heard of others, who have successfully defended an SSPX marriage against nullity in The Church.

  81. Valentino says:

    In virtue of his ordination, a priest can bless all things and even consecrate bread and wine in such wise that they become the very Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. But whenever in his ministry he has to deal authoritatively with people, he needs, over and above the power of Orders, that of Jurisdiction, which empowers him to judge and rule his flock. Jurisdiction is, moreover, necessary for the validity itself of the sacraments of penance and matrimony.

    Now, the sacraments were given by Our Lord as the ordinary and principal means of salvation and sanctification. The Church, therefore, whose supreme law is the salvation of souls (1983 Code of Canon Law, canon 1752), wants the ready availability of these sacraments, and especially penance (canon 968). The Church wants priests (canon 1026) and empowers them liberally to hear confessions (canon 967, §2). This jurisdiction to hear confessions is to be revoked only for a grave reason (canon 974, §1).

    Jurisdiction is ordinarily given by mandate from the pope or diocesan bishop, or perhaps delegated by the parish priest. The priests of the SSPX do not have jurisdiction in this way. Extraordinarily, however, the Church supplies jurisdiction without passing by the constituted authorities. This is foreseen in the 1983 Code of Canon Law:

    when the faithful think the priest has a jurisdiction which he does not have (canon 144) [common error],

    when there is a probable and positive doubt that the priest has jurisdiction (canon 144),

    when a priest inadvertently continues to hear confessions once his faculties have expired (canon 142, §2), and

    when the penitent is in danger of death (and then even if the priest is laicised or an apostate, even though a Catholic priest is at hand) (canons 976, 1335).

    Therefore, the Church, wanting the ready availability of penance, extraordinarily supplies jurisdiction in view of the needs of her children, and it is granted all the more liberally the greater their need.

    Now, the nature of the present crisis in the Church is such that the faithful can on good grounds feel it a moral impossibility to approach priests having ordinary jurisdiction. And so, whenever the faithful need the graces of penance and want to receive them from priests whose judgment and advice they can trust, they can do so, even if the priests do not ordinarily have jurisdiction. Even a suspended priest can do this for the faithful who ask: “for any just cause whatsoever” (canon 1335). This is even more the case if a faithful Catholic can foresee his being deprived of the true sacrament of penance from priests with ordinary jurisdiction until he dies. Only God knows when this crisis will end.

    The extraordinary form for marriages is foreseen in canon 1116, §1. If the couple cannot approach their parish priest “without serious inconvenience” —and they may consider as such his insistence on having the Novus Ordo Missae for the wedding, or their apprehensions concerning his moral teaching in marriage instructions —and if they foresee these circumstances to last for at least a month, then they can marry before witnesses alone, and another priest (e.g., of the SSPX) if possible (canon 1116, §2).

    Even if one were to consider the above arguments as only probable, then jurisdiction would still be certainly supplied by the Church (canon 144).

    And so we must answer affirmatively. Traditional priests do have a jurisdiction that is neither territorial nor ordinary but supplied [Piffle. No. They don’t. – Fr. Z] in view of the needs of the faithful

  82. Indignant Canonist says:

    Ferguson, incredible reasoning for a canonist. The marriage of schismatics (like the Polish NC) is valid not because their ministers have jurisdiction (!!!) but because the canonical form does not apply to them; an exchange of vows before a judge would have the same valid effect. Equally, those who have left the Church by a formal act are no longer obliged by the canonical form.

    Some have made also very strange distinctions. A valid marriage between baptised parties is always a sacrament. There is no half-marriage for the baptised.

    Zuldorf, congratulations for the mess and the anguish. Cui prodest, frater? [First, it’s “Father”. If you show disrespect to me or others in this entry, you won’t post comments here. – Fr. Z]

  83. JM says:

    The SSPX arguments for supplied jurisdiction are dangerous. They are the PRIVATE OPINION of the SSPX. That’s it. Nothing else. Officially, the Church has said that the sacraments of Matrimony and Penance, when attempted by an SSPX, are invalid (except for in particular cases involving Penance.) They are not sacramental. Making decisions based on the SSPX’s opinion, which has never been publicly supported by those with authority, the Pope and his delegates, is a pretty risky way to live.

  84. S.K. says:

    Ttony has a valid point to which, not surprisingly, no one responded:

    Brian Mershon explicitly stated (more than once) that the nature of his letter was one of “private correspondence.” Furthermore, he explicitly states that his intention in writing the letter “in this private correspondence [is] so that I can ensure that my family and I are following the current teaching of the Church on this specific matter”.

    So, how exactly was this supposed to be private correspondence or merely a matter of family catechesis if it was subsequently sumbitted to an internet blog with the express desire that it be published if deemed worthy by the blogger?

    Is this what is meant by acting with “moral certitude” to the responses to the letter?

    I mean, readers of WDTPRS are very much interested in the careful use of language, correct? How does the public dissemination and dissection of the letter constitute “private correspondence”?

    In other words, “What does the letter REALLY say”?

  85. Dan says:

    Interesting article.

  86. Tim Ferguson says:

    Actually, the marriage of members of the PNC before a judge would NOT be considered valid. nor would the marriage of the Orthodox before a judge. Both are Churches, with jurisdictional capability and the ability to bind their faithful to a canonical form.

    For SSPX marriages to be considered valid, they would not only have to be determined to be schimatic, but also a Church with the ability to bind their faithful to canonical form.

  87. Supertradmom says:

    Thank you for all the clarity and fine detail. To those who are uncomfortable with the distinctions, the Holy Catholic Church is an “institution created by Christ” and therefore has the rule of law, as do all institutions.

    I am grateful for the patience of those canonists who have helped with this question.

  88. Supertradmom says:

    Private correspondence may be shared by one of the parties, may it not? This is especially true in this case, as the answer was to a plea for the pastoral care of souls, children and adults. How important for us all that Mr. Mershon shared this with us, as we are involved in these matters daily. Many of us have refused invitations to SSPX weddings, and not gone to confession to the SSPX priests knowing “something was not quite right”, but without the theological language and full understanding as we have received different answers from different priest. I hope the so-called “ultimatum” brings more clarity and decision. All this discussion helps us, and hopefully our SSPX friends, many of whom have been confused and are NOT of one mind about their relationship with the Church.

  89. Painless Potter says:

    So we can go through the “Traditional Catholic with a fine tooth comb, but the Bishops who have wrecked whole “Continents”..we have just got to grin and bear..??

  90. Painless Potter says:

    Sacrament of Penance, what is that exactly, Millions of so called Catholics never ase this sacrament. All of them in various parish combo’s and have a side line as eucharistic ministers, even when the attendance at Mass is in single figures, who cares about these abuses and could someone point out a “just sentance”. I’m writing from an oil rig and don’t have time to read all the other comments, or even spell check so see if you can “forgive me” that

  91. Brian Walden says:


    In layman’s terms (because I’m a layman and can’t speak Canon law), marriage between two baptized people is sacramental and can’t be undone. The Catholic Church imposes the additional discipline on Catholics of having their marriage recognized by their bishop (or one of his priests or deacons) in order to avoid the scandal of people not knowing who is married and who isn’t.

    Because the people who attend SSPX chapels are Catholic they are required to follow this discipline make their vows valid. If they get married in an SSPX chapel (unless their bishop has given SSPX priests permission to perform marriages in his diocese), they vows are invalid. It’s the same thing as if Catholics get married by a justice of the peace or in a Protestant church. Protestants and Eastern Orthodox are not under this discipline to have their vows recognized by the Catholic Church, therefore the vows of the husband and wife are sufficient for the validity of the sacrament.

    Rome didn’t make this ridiculous situation, the SSPX did.

  92. Jane M says:

    If I tell my child to do something and he refuses he is guilty of a sin. If I tell your child to do something and he doesn’t do it he is not necessarily guilty of a sin. If the SSPX is truly separated as are the Orthodox that is different from the case where they say they are in obedience to Rome except when they aren’t.

  93. prof. basto says:

    “A valid marriage between two baptised persons is always a sacrament”

    Well, two points:

    1. – Lack of canonical form, when such form is required, affects the validity of the marriage, and then, if the required form is lacking, there is no Sacrament simply becuase, under Canon Law, there is no valid marriage. Thus, the absence of faculties to witness marriage affects the validity of the contract of marriage itself, and not just its Sacramental character.

    2. – The valid marriage between two baptized persons only raises to the degree of a Sacrament when it is consummated. So the correct thing to say is: “The valid consummated marriage between two baptized persons is always a Sacrament”. But that does not change the fact that, the lack of canonical form when it is required will render the marriage itself null, and thus there is no “valid marriage”, and therefore, also no Sacrament

  94. LCB says:

    Habemus Papam,

    Maybe now you understand why there is so much pressure for the SSPX to formally declare their relationship with the Supreme Roman Pontiff? Either you’re down with Petrine authority or you’re not.

    The complications only arise in situations where there is a dubious state of unity with the Pope. If you’re in unity with Rome, then you respect the jurisdiction of a local ordinary. If you defy Rome, then you defy the local ordinary. To be totally autonomous in lawmaking and soforth, you must be formally broken off from Rome. Can’t have it both ways.


    Just because the SSPX asserts something to be true doesn’t make it so. That entire argument you posted seems to hinge on two facts:
    1) That the Novus Ordo is invalid (it isn’t). To maintain the NO is invalid is to declare a break with Il Papa.
    2) That the “present crisis” requires defiance of the Church and the Holy See, but that argument has clearly been demonstrated as false in the past, as illustrate clearly by John Paul II (surely the Servant of the Servants can make such judgments, right?)

    Finally, “then jurisdiction would still be certainly supplied by the Church.” Going back to moral certitude… this is not a situation where moral certitude is obtained on the part of the SSPX. Such is made totally evident by Ecclesia Dei’s findings that go exactly opposite of SSPX’s findings… and Ecclesia Dei is the body having competency in the matter (as delegated by the Vicar of Christ), not the SSPX.

    Again, it boils down to SSPX’s relationship with the See of Peter.

  95. LCB says:

    Prof. Bastro,

    I don’t want to nit-pick, but I believe that a marriage is sacramental in character once the vows are exchanged and received by the Church. Form (vows), Matter (2 baptized Catholics), Intent (to keep the vows and consummate the marriage at some point).

    Pre-consummation, the sacramental character can still be dissolved (a right reserved to the Pope alone). Once it is consumeated the sacramental character becomes permanent and binding.

  96. Norman says:

    I’ve been interested in all the goings on right now between the SSPX and the Vatican, so I read this posting. I have one question…the article says that the SSPX priests are suspended/not incardinated, which I understand, and that that makes their marriages invalid (which doesn’t necessarily bother me because I married by my diocesan priest and I don’t attend an SSPX church). I always thought that the priest was simply the Church’s witness, and the sacrament was actually done by the couple marrying, if this is so I can see how the witness would be invalid, but why would the marriage itself be invalid?

  97. Indignant Canonist says:

    Basto, you are completely wrong when you write: “The valid marriage between two baptized persons only raises to the degree of a Sacrament when it is consummated.” Where on earth do you find such absurdity?

    Again, Zuhldorf, congratulations. See what you provoke. [You seem to want to launch insults, but nothing substantive is coming from you now. Fr. Z]

  98. Tom Ryan says:

    Thanks Brian:

    The invalid confessions and Marriages will probably make for a lot of work once the
    reconciliation goes through.

    As for the “More Catholic than the Pope” phrase, turnabout may be fair play but it’s Christ not the pope that should be the standard. When Alexander the Sixth was enjoying the papacy I think there were a lot of people more Catholic than the pope!

    Long live Benedict!

  99. Indignant Canonist,

    Whatever your issues with the postings of Father Zuhlsdorf, you speak as a man with no faith when you fail to call him by his rightful title, “Father.” He is, after all, a priest of the Catholic Church. Perhaps your apparently extensive Canon Law training should have included a section on Emily Post and good manners when addressing clergy.


    Fr. Deacon Daniel

  100. prof. basto says:

    LCB and Indignant Canonist,

    You are correct (cf. can. 1055 §2).


    Indignant Canonist,

    In what have I offended you so much that you find it necessary to adopt such harsh language (namely ” Where on earth do you find such absurdity?”)? I’m wrong, and I concede that fact, but there was no need for that.

    Also, I don’t understand why you refer to a Priest as “Zuhldorf”. It’s “Father Zuhldorf”. He may not be offended, but I am when I see a priest being refrred to like that.

    If you are going to offend others on the net, then at least you should have the courage of placing your own name when signing the attack, instead of hiding behind an alias.


    Anyway, by focusing only on the marriage question, I think we are missing a bigger issue: Has the PCED just rescinded the 1996 PCILT interpretation and, if not, then, given that the PCILT Note was a general statement promulgated to the whole Church and the PCED an answer to a private question, what is the weight of both?

  101. LCB says:


    Such tone is not needed. These are civil discussion forms. If you are a canonist, perhaps using your actual name would help improve the clarity of your posts?

    However, what do you mean by, “See what you provoke?” Some of your postings have been, well, much less than clear.

  102. Indignant Canonist, a marriage has to be consummated to be valid. That’s pretty basic theology there.

  103. Lynne says:

    Coletta, the sermons that you listen to are by FSSP priests.

  104. Cathguy says:


    These are excellent points, and I absolutely agree 100%.

    Yet, the fine points of Canon law I think we ought to leave to the Canonists. It would seem that those who argue that marriages and confessions by SSPX may well be invalid.

    I think now the onus is on the SSPX to seek to regularize their canonical status. This unholy mess ought to be resolved NOW. It appears the Holy See is not asking them to recognize VII. The universal indult has been proclaimed. If not now, when?

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