Soften, O Lord, their hearts

From a priest reader:

Something I was thinking about tonight with regard to how we should PRAY for the SSPX:
I think we need to pray for all the priests of the Society, for the softening of their hearts, because in order for them to reconcile with Rome it seems that they will simultaneously have to realize and accept the fact — and try to make right — that they have administered many invalid confessions and marriages.  I can only imagine how crushing this fact would be for any priestly heart to bear.  Along with this goes the need to pray for the lay faithful attached to the SSPX, who will presumably have to make new general confessions and have marriages convalidated when seeking union with Rome.  This element will be very difficult for all, I think.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. A Random Friar says:

    That’s not something I would wish on any priest. May God strengthen them in their virtues that they may seek to do what is right, especially the fortitude to see it through.

  2. Breier says:

    A good intention. I think the process will be easier for lay people, however.

    I think Rome could validate all the marriages by the canonical process of sanatio in radice. I think many lay people think in good faith that the SSPX priests can absolve their sins. Most lay people generally probably don’t even avert to the question of jurisidiction when seeking absolution from a priest. Traveling priests sometimes get stopped and asked to hear confessions. The issue of faculties is technical. Wouldn’t the church supply jurisdiction to people confessing in good faith?

    All this has already been done before in the diocese of Campos, Brazil, which had priests and a bishop too, I believe.

  3. not.a.canonist says:

    Fr. John Zuhlsdorf @ 11:33 pm:
    “Folks… I am so tired of the empty arguments. There is so much empty and hateful name calling. I want unity. I am a convert.”

    Well, that only lasted 1/2 hour. This new post of yours is guaranteed to rehash the same old supplied jurisdiction arguments!

    Campos: No re-marriages, no re-confessions, no crushed priestly hearts.

  4. Sacerdos says:

    The Holy Father could enact a ‘sanatio’ using the power of the keys as a further act of paternal mercy. This is most likely as these sacraments have been celebrated in good faith by both the priests and faithful.

  5. Laurence says:

    So, if the Orthodox suddenly decided to return to Rome, they
    would have to admit they all their sacraments were invalid?
    I don’t think so. Illicit maybe, but not invalid.

    I would think that Breier is correct.

    Invalid and illicit are two different things. Nearly every Novus Ordo Mass
    in my diocese is illicit because they refuse to follow basic rubrics from
    Rome. And, heaven knows, very few of the priests believe what Rome teaches,
    so the average sacrament in my diocese may be invalid.

    Remember, if the SSPX return fully to the Church, they are not entering a
    perfect Church but one full of error, everywhere.

  6. Dan says:

    “that they have administered many invalid confessions and marriages. ”

    If that is true, then a great dealt of that fault lies with Rome. Did the Popes, as the Chief Shepherds of their spiritual children ever…ever…deliver a powerful, clear language warning that was broadcast to the hilt throughout the Church that Catholics received invalid Sacraments at SSPX chapels? Such a declaration would have received monumental international publicity.

    What about certain Churchmen (I can think of at least one Cardinal) whose statements suggested that the SSPX was not schismatic…and gave the impression that the SSPX priests were holy men.

    Why did Rome open its Basilicas to SSPX Masses if SSPX priests were to be avoided?

    Why would Catholics believe that avoidance of the SSPX was necessary while Popes, Cardinals, bishops and priests prayed and worshipped frequently with non-Catholics…and even prayed at synagogues?

    By the way, in 1988, Cardinal Ratzinger (His Holiness) declared that many priests who were in full communion with Rome had “desacralized” parishes throughout the Church…wrecked countless Catholics spritually and even physically.

    Conversely, it has been acknowledged that many Catholics attached themselves to SSPX chapels where they found holiness.

    Let us also be sure to pray for the many “in full communion with Rome” priests who render invalid Sacraments. After all, they exist in far greater numbers than SSPX priests.

    Finally, let’s not forget that many laymen wrote to Rome to ask about SSPX chapels. In turn, laymen were informed that it was acceptable to assist at SSPX Masses.

    Therefore, if the SSPX rendered invalid Sacraments, our Churchmen must share blame as they gave the impression frequently that Catholics were free to pray and worship with SSPX priests and even Protestants, Eastern Orthodox…even in synagogues and mosques.

    Why wouldn’t a Catholic believe that he or she were free to receive Sacraments at SSPX chapels?

  7. boredoftheworld says:

    I don’t know, maybe I’m insane, maybe I just don’t understand the religion I’m supposedly practicing but I get extremely uncomfortable with the idea of praying that God would soften the hearts of others when my own is so horribly hard.

    I can’t read the hearts and minds of the bishops and priests of the SSPX, I can barely stand the attempt at examining my own. Many people have spent a great deal of time analyzing the words and intentions of every statement, quip and cough made by the bishops of the Society and have reached the conclusion that they are to varying degrees proud, self-centered, divisive, defiant scoundrels… I don’t know about that, what I do know is that’s me on a good day!

    By all means pray for them. Pray for their safety, pray that God will use them to confound the devil and convert the world, but always in a positive way, never by cataloging the sins of which we think they are guilty. God knows them, we don’t.

    But as I say, I don’t know, it’s entirely probable that I’ve got this whole Catholic thing totally screwed up.

  8. Gabrielle says:

    I completely agree with Dan. For years I received the Sacraments from the SSPX Priests and I can tell you now I felt my sins were forgiven a lot more readily than from a priest that told me birth control was alright and that I did not need to go to Mass every Sunday but could still go to Holy Communion. I realise that two wrongs don’t make a right but I do not believe that there was two wrongs. I went to the SSPX because of supply. The SSPX Priests have nothing to feel guilty or crushed about. This is an old argument and not only did the faithful at Campos not have to get married again, go to confession again etc neither did the faithful that attended the Masses of other Orders before they regularised.
    The Pro Papa League Blog has a wonderful statement for the late Archbishop Lefebvre – it is certainly worth reading.

  9. wsxyz says:

    When reading Catholic blogs and discussion forums there is often a lot of talk of rules and laws and nitpicking about what has been done, or must be done. That is not, in itself, a problem because Natural Law, Divine Law, and Church Law do exist and it is good to be educated about them. But I think sometimes we need to return more often to the first lesson in the Catechism:

    Q. Why did God make you?
    A. God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.

    and remember that being Catholic isn’t about aimlessly following a laundry list of rules and laws, but it is about knowing God so that we can love Him and loving Him so that we can serve Him. If we as Catholics have done our best to meet our obligations to know, love, and serve God, surely we can hope with confidence to be happy with Him forever.

  10. john hunwicke says:

    It is surely a commonplace that, in a situation of common error, the Church supplies jurisdiction to cofessors. And that marriages can be dealt with by sanatio a radice.
    If anybody is interested in an Anglican take on some of the implications of the moves vis a vis SSPX, I commend my own Blog Father Hunwicke’s Liturgical Notes.
    John Hunwicke

  11. I am not Spartacus says:

    Father. It was The Holy Spirit working through your communications that softened my heart vis a vis the SSPX. Once I was among their most strident and, yes, cruel, opponents.

    Now, I can happily pray for their complete and total acceptance back into the fold.

    Kudos for all of your wise words and works, Father.

    Of course you will be subjected to criticism by extremist partisans from those who, on one hand, think the SSPX is the apotheosis of Tradition and those, on the other hand, who think the SSPX has been a scourge whipping The Body of Christ.

    Please take comfort in that. I think it illustrates you are right.

    God Bless.

  12. BobP says:

    Yes, another “I’ll pray for your conversion” prayer. How much boastful can one be? Who’s committing the sin of pride now?

  13. Scott says:

    I agree totally with Dan’s comments.

    Father, would it be possible for you to put a chat room on your website that is open all the time? Surely you don’t need to be in front of your computer 24/7 to achieve this? I think it would be great!

  14. Andrew says:

    Already dealt with in Campos, Brazil.

  15. Tomas says:

    To be quite blunt, this is a load of nonsense. It is Rome and its modernist apparatchiks who have hardened their hearts trying to remake the Church into a Protestant sect, not SSPX priests who have been fighting for and upholding tradition. Why do you keep beating this dead horse, Father Z? Please move on to something else!

  16. Gravitas says:

    “in order for them to reconcile with Rome it seems that they will simultaneously have to realize and accept the fact—and try to make right—that they have administered many invalid confessions and marriages.”

    Soften their hearts? Yes, I think some softening on both sides is in order. As time goes on, a hardening occurs.

    But no one should pretend they know for sure whether their marriages and confessions are valid or not. I’ve spoken to FSSP, Institute and other priests who can’t even all agree. Some think they’re not valid, some think confessions are valid but not marriages, some thing both are valid.

    Let’s just stick to praying for the softening to occur and let God and the Holy Father be the judge of validity.

  17. chironomo says:


    I also am tired of so much of this, and hope beyond all hopes that this will soon pass. COnsider all of the groups that have been “on the outside” of the Catholic Church and who are now a part. We seem to have gotten over quite a few, and I suspect we will get over this as well.

    As for me, I’m still a bit upset about allowing the uncircumcised in, but that’s just me….

  18. joy says:

    Yes, another “I’ll pray for your conversion” prayer. How much boastful can one be? Who’s committing the sin of pride now?

    Comment by BobP


    I thought daily conversion was necessary for all of us.
    Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est!

  19. Piers-the-Ploughman says:

    a private prayer of this nature may be acceptable, but publicly I see no need to go here. These issues are quite small compared to how re-integration is accomplished. I can easily imagine the holy Father cleaning all that up with a one page document. If he lifted the excomms with so little required of the SSPX, the marriage and confession issue will be footnotes
    a prayer to soften SSPX hearts and the NO clergy who will be asked to accept them into their dioceses–only for a true prayer warrior!

  20. Jess says:

    Father, are the sacraments administered by SSPX priests actually invalid?

    As I understood it (and I’m no canonist), they are validly ordained priests and sacraments administered by them would have been valid but illicit.

  21. Paladin says:

    boredoftheworld wrote:

    I don’t know, maybe I’m insane, maybe I just don’t understand the religion I’m supposedly practicing but I get extremely uncomfortable with the idea of praying that God would soften the hearts of others when my own is so horribly hard.

    Well… praying for the softening of someone else’s heart is hardly incompatible with praying that your own heart be softened, as well! I pray thusly, every day, for numerous people… while still praying that my own sins and faults be healed and forgiven.

    Tomas wrote:

    It is Rome and its modernist apparatchiks who have hardened their hearts trying to remake the Church into a Protestant sect, not SSPX priests who have been fighting for and upholding tradition. Why do you keep beating this dead horse, Father Z?

    Good grief.

    Father Z., judging from some of the comments (especially re: the SSPX) on these threads, you may have to add another species to your Sabine feeder report: “ruffled grouse”.

  22. Does this mean my first confession to an SSPX 26 years ago was invalid? Nonsense.

  23. Credo says:

    “The Pope, theologian and historian of theology, knows the drama that schism represents in the Church,” the prelate said. “He understands the question that often arises in the history of schism: Were all of the means to avoid it truly employed?” (Statement from Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, archbishop of Bordeux, member of Ecclesia Dei)

    Perhaps the Holy Father will determine that all of the means to avoid this split were not employed from Rome? It could happen.

    I would rather pray for unity within the Church and that God’s will be done. Since it is possible that Rome may determine that all was not done to keep unity then such a prayer makes more sense and seems more charitable, in my opinion.

  24. Someone might suggest praying that WDTPRS does not–with more posts and threads like this one–not go the way of a certain well-known radical traditionalist blog — down a rathole into total irrelevancy.

    However, I myself feel confident that WDTPRS–though hardly as indefectible as the Church Herself–will survive even the senseless nitpicking that has predominated here the past few days, but surely a prayer couldn’t hurt anything.

  25. Piers-the-Ploughman says:

    my guess is exactly that, that Rome did not do all it could to avoid this situation, and being the Authority it is, it has to effectively own up and try as best it can to “start over”. Now the SSPX has to do its part.

  26. V says:

    I found Fr Demets sermon excellent:

    I was wondering, do anglican Priests have to go through another ordination?
    If the sacraments are not valid such as confession, then why going to Mass to a SSPX Chapel?
    Why would it be said that under some circonstances you can fufill your Sundays duties? ( isn’t it a cardinal or a bishop who said that, one who is in union with the Church?)

    It just doesn’t hold the water.

    My impression here, also, is like how much more do you want from Bishop Fellay, he asked to come back to the church, he apologize for that crazy english bishop’s comment when to my sense he shouldn’t. Williamson is entitled to his craziness. But Bishop Fellay did, and he even went so far as reassuring all those wacko catholic liberals that he would silence Williamson…
    Bishop Fellay is on his knees, and it seems that some here seems to enjoy kicking him more.
    Not fair.

  27. Angelo says:

    To the Priest Reader who posted:

    Beware Father; it is a grave error (perhaps a sin) to
    disturb the consciences of the common faithful who suffered
    during this turmoil. I am sure there must be an expostion
    on disturbing consciences needlessly in your studies of
    moral/pastoral theology in your seminary.
    I believe that you are not entitle to this opinion until the
    Church makes a definitive response to the issue.

    In the meantime,please, for the love of God,
    do not exacerbate the situation.

  28. Memphis Aggie says:

    I think this invalid versus illicit distinction is unclear, for some of us, or at least me anyway. It’s a little like the excommunicated but not schismatic distinction before. If marriages and confessions have to be redone that requirement would have to be articulated by a definitive Authority and I expect, given the warming of relations, that every effort would be made to make issues clear and the road to unity more easily traveled. Things are going pretty well, there’s room for optimism.

  29. Catholic traditionalist says:


    With the SSPX confessions, there is more than faculties at work. There is also the question of common error. It was once held that a priest, just by sitting in the confessional when he doesn’t have faculties, has created a common error and that the Church supplies jurisdiction. When has Rome officially told the faithful that SSPX priests do not have jurisdiction to hear confessions? Until recently when Cardinal Hoyos said it never, and we have to grant not only is the statement recent, but it only affects those who read the internet.

    Moreover, I would argue that the SSPX clergy create the common error on purpose. Most FSSP priests I have known have told me that nearby SSPX priests call them up for confession, because they know they don’t have jurisdiction to hear eachother’s confessions, supplied or otherwise.

  30. Calleva says:

    How one ‘feels’ about being absolved by an SSPX priest, attending their Masses, etc is irrelevant. What we have here concerns the Papal power of binding and loosing – the fact that the SSPX does not have permission from Rome to administer the sacraments.

    The modernist, clown-Mass-loving, zero tolerance liberal ascendancy in the RCC is not the point: this matter concerns the authority of Rome and whether we accept this authority or not.

    It’s been suggested that the Pope could with a swish of the pen render the sacramental acts (especially marriages, confessions) of the SSPX valid. The first step was to lift the excommunications, the rest will follow in time, God willing.

    Much prayer is needed. This isn’t pride, it’s for the unity of the Church.

  31. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    Dear Father Z,

    An image to cherish, in the midst of this debate, is that of a Russian icon, “Mother of God, Softener of Evil Hearts.” The picture is available online (of course!) It’s here:

    The seven swords are pointed at the Blessed Mother’s heart, three on each side, one pointing upwards. A miraculous copy of this icon is currently in Moscow.

  32. Baron Korf says:

    At the least, we need to accept the possibility of this being true (that they are not valid) and in light of that, take every step necessary to protect the faithful and reassure them. I think this can only lead to unity, especially if done with Papa Benedict’s deft style. No longer would anyone be able to say “Well that was done by SSPX so it doesn’t count.” It might be humiliating to some of the Society’s supporters, but its better to be safe than sorry.

    The sooner we get all of this resolved, the better. As much as I may disagree with the tactics of the late Archbishop, I still think that we can only benefit by their regularization. Having their love of the nuances of tradition and ardent defense of the faith considered normal as opposed to a radical fringe (at least in public perception) would be a really big brick.

  33. Memphis Aggie:

    Let me try to spell out “invalid” as opposed to “illicit”:

    If Johnny’s mom tells him to stay out of the kitchen, but he disobeys, and makes a cake–it’s a cake…if it has all the essential elements a cake has to have. (I.e., valid, but not licit).

    But if what Johnny brings mommy is a bowl of goo, which he calls a cake, it’s not a cake because he says so, but because it lacks essential “cakiness” (whatever pertains to the “essence” of a cake which we need not discuss here). I.e., an invalid “sacrament.”

    If a priest celebrates a sacrament without permission of, or contrary to the guidance given by, Mother Church — that includes priests who aren’t supposed to be celebrating sacraments at all, and those who celebrate them contrary to the rubrics — they are like the boy making the cake when told not to. Valid–but illicit.

    Sometimes, the priest (or a deacon or bishop) will celebrate a sacrament in such a way as to leave out something essential: he messes with the essential words, or he doesn’t use proper materials such as wheat bread and grape wine for the Eucharist; and in that case, he hasn’t made a cake at all, just a mess. And that applies when laypeople administer a sacrament, too–such as an emergency baptism, or the sacrament of marriage, which couples administer to one another.

    A little diversion on marriage: if a couple brings Mother a bowl of goo, and they say, we thought this was a marriage, but now we’re not so sure, Mother can and will declare, that is not, and never was a marriage–i.e., that’s what a declaration of nullity is, and that’s a legitimate thing for mother to do; that is not a case of the couple making a valid marriage–a cake–and then ruining it, and then getting off the hook. In the latter case, Mother Church will say, sadly, that is, indeed, a ruin, but it was, and still is, a cake, and I cannot pretend it is not.

    I have to give credit where due: the image of the cake–ruined or non-existent–comes from a brother priest, who may not want his name mentioned, but fair is fair; it isn’t my idea.

  34. Anne-France says:

    A “softening of the hearts”… hummm … you mean on both sides, Father?

    A friend said to me: “X is kicking someone who is on the ground”. Have pity of them, please Father! We are not perfect either! It sounds more and more as if the SSPX needs a permission to come and join the perfect people! The Church is perfect but not us. Let’s work for unity!

    And what about all these people within the Church who have never been to confession? Who is telling them to do what’s right?

    I suggest the reading of Fr. Demets’homily.

  35. variously curious says:

    Why would their marriages be invalid?

    Isn’t marriage a sacrament “performed” by the marrying couple, while the priest or deacon is just really a witness of sorts?

    If the man and woman are “valid” Catholics, wasn’t their “marrying each other” perfectly valid?

  36. Now, the question may arise, why can a disobedient priest celebrate the Eucharist validly, yet contrary to permission; but not with the sacrament of penance?

    Well, the short answer is that permission from Mother is essential to the validity of penance and marriage — and confirmation — in ways it is not in the celebration of baptism, Eucharist, anointing and holy orders.

    If you want to know why our sacraments work this way, well…that’s a great question, but framing a really thoughtful answer will take longer than I can give at the moment.

    Again, the short answer is, that’s how we, the Church, discern the Lord to have set things up. He established the Church by empowering his Apostles and giving the Deposit of Faith to them, and we are carrying on what they launched in his name. We strive, with the efficacious help of the Holy Spirit to carry out the program faithfully–but never was it promised we would be able fully and completely to explain it all. Under the circumstances, we have vastly more cause for encouragement–the Church has endured marvelously well, all things considered–than discouragement, so maybe we can live with not always being able to pin down every detail or rationale.

  37. Dear V: I found Fr Demets sermon excellent:

    Thank you for calling our attention to this, the finest singly statement I’ve yet seen on the topic du jour.

    Fr. Laurent Demets, FSSP — a spiritual father of the restoration of the traditional Mass in my neck of the woods — is both one of the holiest and one of the most sensible priests I have ever known. The uncommon insight of his remarks — at once graceful and eloquent, inspiring and down to earth — is no surprise to me.

  38. Origen Adamantius says:

    Variously curious:

    The sacrament of marriage is not a simple sacrament to pin down. In the Latin rite the couple are the ministers of the sacrament in most (if not all of the other rites) the priest is. In the Latin rite, since marriage is not a private act but public sacrament, those ministering the rite are bound by the laws of the community to which they belong. If they chosse to prescind from certain requirements by the church (Ecclesiastic witness, sacred space) without permission, then they are acting against the very nature of the sacrament which is community and their marriage lacks validity. Catholics of the Latin rite are bound by certain regulations of the Latin rite that others who do not belong are not bound by. That is why protestants can have valid marriages without a priest present and Latin rite Catholics cannot.

  39. Whatever the Canon Law requirements are judged to be by the Holy Father, we pray that all will accept that decision in charity and humility.

    This is about unity with the See of Peter, in obedience in truth and charity. The rest will follow.

  40. I will pray for you Father realizing that this e-flock you have taken on to minister to can be an unruly bunch, but even the best of families have arguments yet still love the parent. I do however feel that the SSPX has so much to offer the church that we must pray for them and to quote an earlier post the NO priests to accept them with open arms, heaven knows with the current political situation in the world we need everyone pulling the wagon, not digging in their heels

  41. Credo says:

    There is a shortage of vocations to the priesthood; however, there is no shortage of vocations to the papacy. (It seemed to me that this quote is very relevant right now.)

  42. Henry,

    Are you referring to the Traditio website?

  43. Credo: there is no shortage of vocations to the papacy.

    As WDTPRS proves, over and over! But, as Fr. Demets said (linked above),

    “We have to continue the work of a restoration of a Catholic culture in our society. ….. We are not in charge of the whole Church. ….. It is not our duty to say what the Pope should or should not do. It is not our duty to say what this Bishop should do or should not do. But it is our duty to fulfill our obligations according to our own state of life. ….. And if all the faithful would content themselves of doing their duties, it is the whole Church that would be more beautiful, more luminous and brighter. She would illuminate the world by the holiness of her members.”

  44. Nathan says:

    Henry Edwards: God bless you, you (and Fr. Demets) just hit a home run.

    In Christ,

  45. V says:

    I pray that the our priests and bishops soften their hearts and follow the pope example’s in welcoming the SSPX.
    I pray that quickly the magisterium is going to iron out the technicallities and that the SSPX priests be able to celebrate the Holy Mass in our abandonned Churches in France.

    Deo Gratias, and welcome home.
    Where is the fatten calf? is the fire ready? :-)

    Now we must pray for our brothers orthodox that they join us also!

  46. Gravitas says:

    Henry Edwards:

    It’s a nice thought, but we all know that there are bishops opposed to the will of the Holy Father. And if we’re being denied the traditional Mass and sacraments, that makes it harder for us to fulfill our obligations, because it’s harder for at least some of us to grow in our spiritual life (some are so holy they can grown in their spiritual life attending clown Masses, but not I).

    So I think there are times when we can know what are prelates should be doing or shouldn’t be doing. Not all the time — but certainly some of the time.

  47. Maureen says:

    You couldn’t pay me to be a priest, much less a bishop or the Pope. As this whole situation demonstrates abundantly, very few of us really want that responsibility!

    Playing canon lawyer on the Internet, on the other hand…. :)

    As for the rest, one of the great disadvantages of real life is not only that one can’t hear the soundtrack, but that one can’t look ahead at what’s coming up on the track listing.

    No doubt if Lefebvre & Co. had been able to look ahead and see that, not only was the Assisi mess leading to Dominus Iesus and the rebirth of traditionalism, but that the guy they were negotiating was going to become Pope and put everything into motion, they would have been able to wait it out until now. But they couldn’t see that. Neither could any of us see. And if the grace of God made us stick around in the Church or come to the Church, that is the grace of God and not us — not even, necessarily, us cooperating very much with that grace. We don’t know what others have faced that we have been protected from, or vice versa.

    In some ways, this is a public situation affecting the whole Church, yes. But when it finally comes down to it, it’s also a largely confidential business that’s between those four guys and the Vatican negotiators. Maybe we should quit rubbernecking and yes, pray for wisdom and softening of hearts for all on every side. Nothing more is likely to happen for a while anyway, and there’s not much anybody can say that will really help out the parties in question.

  48. V says:

    seen on the Forum Catholique:

    Bishop Williamson has wrote to the Vatican to apologize for the damage caused by his impudent declarations!

    Monseigneur Williamson se montre également conciliant

    Nous continuons à communiquer les nouvelles mondiales. Et d’importance ! On vient de recevoir au Vatican une lettre de Monseigneur Williamson présentant ses excuses pour le dommage causé par ses imprudentes déclarations sur un ton et dans un contenu qui ont très agréablement surpris.
    Je crois qu’il s’agit là d’un pas supplémentaire dans la réconciliation à souhaiter avec ce groupe qui ne se trouve pas en pleine communion avec Rome. Le cardinal Re pense que s’il y avait eu plus de communication entre le Saint-Siège et la Fraternité Saint-Pie X, on aurait évité bien des problèmes. Grâce à Dieu, la bonne volonté du Saint Père est parfaitement bien accueillie par les successeurs de Monseigneur Lefebvre.
    Les déclarations de Monseigneur Williamson, évidemment très malheureuses, même si elles ne nient pas pour autant l’horreur du nazisme, ont été tenues il y a plusieurs mois à la télévision suédoise qui les fit coïncider avec la publication du décret levant les excommunications. Il paraît évident qu’il s’agit là d’une tentative de discréditer les Lefebvristes et, surtout, le pape.
    Tout comme je me réjouissais de l’intervention de Monseigneur Fellay, je pense que nous devons déceler dans la réaction de Monseigneur Williamson une décision ferme de la Fraternité de mener à bien le rétablissement de la pleine communion.

  49. Janet says:

    Fr. Z, as one convert speaking to another, I see all these back and forth arguments as trivial and a waste of people’s time and energy; but since you run the blog, you can’t get away from it by turning off the computer like I can.

    God is bigger, smarter, and much more loving than the legalists of the world seem to realize. God will see to it that Perfect Justice is always applied with every one of us, whether Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Schismatic, etc.

    Maybe we should just pray that God’s Will be done in this as in all things, then leave the details to Him. It’s a whole lot simpler! :-)

  50. Thomas says:

    I’m pretty sure the confessions and marriages are valid. The jurisdiction might be irregular for the former, but since the SSPX priests are validly ordained Catholic priests, I can see no reason why the latter would be suspect.

    The softening we seek might need to be mutual…

  51. Amelia says:

    Yes, Anne-France. To point at just one side and say “Pray to soften their hearts.” is not good. Both Bp Fellay and Holy Father both recognize the wolves. Let us pray that both stay the course. Last I knew only one Man ever walked on water.

    All of us who speak up, lay faithful, priest, journalist, cardinal, canon lawyer…what motivates our speech? Why are we vocal? Just to let everyone know we have an opinion? Which saint is that, that we emulate? Most of these opinions add to the confusion and are enough to bring one to despair.

    These men (our Pope and Bp Fellay) have the duties of their vocations and the responsibilities that go with them. So do we. Part of ours is to pray for them and we should do so quietly and with much humility. Other than a call for such prayer, we the lay faithful should not be heard from.

    We are ALL being sifted like wheat.

  52. BD says:

    I’m tired of all this fighting. I wish you people would just quit being wrong. :-)

  53. Greg,

    Actually, I was thinking of Angelqueen, which I haven’t read for some time, but a friend e-mailed me had yesterday that its moderator had just banned any more discussion of Bishop Williamson, saying that “most of his colleagues in the SSPX – high and low – are furious with him.”

  54. Irenaeus says:

    Anyone see this:

    Note of the District Superior for Germany of the SSPX

    As District Superior of the Society [of Saint Pius X] in Germany, I am very troubled by the words pronounced by Bishop Williamson here in this country.

    The banalization of the genocide of the Jews by the Nazi regime and of its horror are unacceptable for us.

    The persecution and murder of an incalculable number of Jews under the Third Reich touches us painfully and they also violate the Christian commandment of love for neighbor which does not distinguish ethnicities.

    I must apologize for this behavior and dissociate myself from such a view.

    Such dissociation is also necessary for us because the father of Archbishop Lefebvre died in a KZ [concentration camp] and because numerous Catholic priests lost their lives in Hitler’s concentration camps.

    Stuttgart, January 27, 2009

    Father Franz Schmidberger

    [Father Schmidberger was the Superior-General of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X at the time of the consecrations of 1988.]

  55. V says:

    The media are doing the same thing to Rush Limbaugh right now.

    Deviate from the real topic. They are creating chaos in france, the spot light is on negationism when it should be on the RECONCIATION, the SSPX bishops asked to come back, it is time to rejoice.
    the liberal media/wannabe catholic are horrified and the goal is to villify the SSPX>
    especially when we know that Williamson comment was said 3 month ago.
    the media are a very good propaganda machine.

  56. Rob F. says:

    Laurence said, “So, if the Orthodox suddenly decided to return to Rome, they
    would have to admit they all their sacraments were invalid?”

    Few if any Orthodox are governed by the Code of Canon Law of the Latin church. I don’t think that you can generally apply a Latin standard to their sacraments to determine whether or not they are licit. They are governed primarily according to their own canons.

    The SSPX clergy, on the other hand, are clearly members of the Latin church, at least now that they are no longer excommunicate. Latin law is to be used to determine their canonical status and the status of the sacraments they administer.

  57. Tiny says:

    I’m not quite sure the guy has it quite right. I think one of the hardest issues is the promulgation of new laws and disciplines; somewhere along the lines of indefectability I suppose.

    The Novus Ordo, the new Ordination and Consecration rites would logically have to be accepted as valid and not intrinsically evil. Not to mention certain Code of Canon law quirks concerning areas such as Friday abstinence and chapel head coverings.

  58. Gravitas says:

    TINY: Not to mention certain Code of Canon law quirks concerning areas such as Friday abstinence and chapel head coverings.

    If you mean the SSPX will start having to teach those as optional, I can’t imagine that happening, nor should it. They may not say they have to be followed but they’re not going to present other options.

    Even the FSSP calendar this year, after many complaints came in, dropped their explanation that the Friday abstinence is optional for meat. Now they just say no meat on all non-feast day Fridays.

  59. Calleva says:

    Massachusetts Catholic – YES!!! Thank you for the link to the Theotokos Softener of Evil Hearts. I am devoted to this image (had not seen the page you linked or that particular icon) and it brought me great consolation in a family dispute a couple of years ago. Our Lady under this title can bring about harmony and clear thinking. The icon is similar to the Seven Sorrows – it is indeed appropriate to this situation where angry words and recriminations can prevent further developments. Yes, both sides need to have their hearts softened, although I believe that our Holy Father is the most wise and loving shepherd and it’s the rest of us who need to listen to him.

  60. Fr. Z, I think you are right that we should pray for the softening of hearts, but perhaps, as Thomas commented, for the mutual softening of hearts. There are a lot of hard hearts (and heads) embroiled in this issue.

    Thomas: the question of the validity of confessions and marriages is because they, unlike the other sacraments, require jurisdiction for validity as well as matter, form, and intention. If a priest or bishop does not have jurisdiction he cannot validly witness marriages or absolve. Priests are ordinarily given jurisdiction by the diocesan bishop. In some specific cases where a priest does not have jurisdiction, also know as faculties, it is supplied by the Church. For example, every priest, even those who have been laicized, have jurisdiction to absolve the dying. This is a clear example. The situation of the SSPX is not as clear and it will be up to canon lawyers and the Holy Father to decide what is to be done, not the commenters here.

    Laurence: belief of the minister is not a requirement for the validity of a sacrament. Thomas Aquinas makes this quite clear in the Summa. He also negates the arguement that one cannot have the proper intention if one does not believe.

    Tiny and Gravitas: The issue of Friday Abstinence is not universal. It depends on the country. The CJC is clear that Friday abstinence is the law, however each bishops conference my substitute another practice. If they do not do so, then abstinence remains the law for that country. The arguement “we never heard that” doesn’t hold water. Ignorance of the law does not excuse one from the law. Just because bishops and priests don’t preach about it doesn’t mean Catholic are not obliged to follow the law. Even if bishops and priests say they don’t have to do that any more, that does not excuse from the law. We are all of us responsible for our own salvation. Every Catholic bears the responsibility to see to it that they know the faith and the law of the Church. Catholics must take responsibility for themselves and not dump it off on bishops, priests, and catechists.

    To all those who have confessed to or had their marriage witnessed by a priest of the SSPX: You acted in good faith. Until a decision is made by Rome, leave it in the merciful hands of God. You will not lose your soul because you acted in good faith. Even now, despite the assertions of some, the issue is uncertain given how things were dealt with in Campos, Brazil. Do not let your hearts be troubled by this. When it’s time to deal with it, the Holy Father will deal with it. Until then, continue to act in good faith.

    For the rest: This is an issue that, because of the confusion and chaos it causes to consciences is best left alone until the Holy Father acts. It is most certainly a sin to disturb the consciences of others without absolute moral certainty. Besides, it’s not what the thread is about. (Mea culpa, Fr. Z.)

  61. Tiny says:

    Sorry Fr. Bailey, I was referring to the fact that the mitigating position taken by certain Conferences of Bishops is sometimes ignored (e.g. Friday abstinence is presented as being in full legal force even though it is not). Namely, the pick and choose attitude of which laws to follow 1917 or 1983.

  62. Ian says:

    All Due Respect, Fr. Z, but I’m not sure this is the best type of thing to be posting if we’re really aiming at unity.

    The Holy See is the only one who can make any kind of determination on the status of the sacraments offered by the SSPX priests. While I know you and, obviously this priest whom you quote here do not accept that an SSPX priest validly witnesses a marriage or gives absolution, the simple fact is that there has never been any definitive determination by any proper authority. It is entirely possible that the Canonical authorities will fall on the side of accepting those sacraments as valid.

    Indeed, as an longtime SSPX supporter, I agree that we need to pray, just as I an others have been doing for a long time. But just as you have been highly critical of some of the statements from the SSPX on the new situation as not fostering unity, perhaps it is a good idea to wonder if rehashing this debate over the validity of sacraments in such a public matter (when none of us can decide the question definitively) is helpful to moving toward some unity of purpose and spirit.

  63. Fr. BJ says:

    Many folks have entirely missed the point in this thread.

    The Holy Father himself said today that the excommunication had been incurred, and that he remitted it as an act of mercy (not of justice: there was an excommunication).

    Previous correspondence from Cardinal Hoyos (see here, for example: ) has indicated that the priests of SSPX were suspended, and therefore administered marriage and penance invalidly.

    These are the judgments of the competent authorities. Folks are free to say that they “feel” or “think” otherwise, but their feelings and thoughts do need to be submitted to the judgment of the proper authority, which is clear in this matter, no matter what the spin doctors say.

    Hence, notwithstanding the fact that the Church supplies the faculties when the faithful approach these otherwise invalidly-conferred sacraments in good faith, it needs to be said that at least objectively speaking SSPX priests have been administering the sacraments of marriage and penance invalidly, and this, as the priest who emailed noted, is something for which prayer is needed.

    This is not a matter of any of us deciding this matter definitively. It has already been decided. The above letter is but one piece of that evidence. There are others. And against the backdrop of the Holy Father’s clear remarks today — which the Holy See saw fit also to post on YouTube — it seems like the matter is pretty clear. There is also Ed Peters’ recent defense, as if the judgment of Rome which has been clearly manifested were not enough.

    Pray for the softening of hearts is precisely aimed at unity.

    Here is a concluding thought. I have what might be called traditionalist sympathies. I am eager to respond positively to any initiative that the Holy Father has and will promote to help the Church recover what has been lost over the last century. But I cannot help but notice that so many traditionalists (including several who regularly post in these fora) cling to black-and-white interpretations of Church teaching and discipline, except when it comes to certain matters — some of which affect them personally, i.e. their personal integrity and standing within the communion of the Church — in which cases they do not cease to make endless nuances and distinctions and ultimately arrive at an impasse, when what the Holy Father and other Roman authorities has said is actually pretty clear, challenging as it might be.

    The above appeal to prayer appears to me to be an act of charity, an act of empathy even, realizing how difficult and grave the present matter is. That some folks would call such an act of charity something which only stokes division and rancor and which reflects poorly upon the petitioner, suggests to me that some here might need to make a good examination of conscience and perhaps think a little harder before they post — maybe step away from the computer for a little while and clear the head. Of course we should pray for the softening of hearts. Of course, at the same time, we should always realize the need for our own ongoing conversions.

  64. Ian says:

    Fr. BJ,

    As with Fr. Z, all due respect it intended, but you are quite incorrect here.

    Mr. Mershon sent a private letter to the Ecclesia Dei Commission and got a private response. It was not a Decree of any kind and certainly did not do anything but express the Cardinal’s opinion. This papal commission has a very limited purpose and scope and is most certainly not a competent authority on the interpretation of canon law.

    We have no competent authority on record regarding the SSPX sacraments. Thus, without certainty on this, I cannot see how it is not divisive and working against unity to suggest that a substantial group of Catholics have been confessing invalidly for years and many couples are living in sin since they are not truly married (even though they went through a Catholic ceremony).

    I’m not going to try to use this comment box to argue for the validity of the sacraments. That is not the purpose of this place. However, I must say that I think making this point a significant issue or even bringing it up when there is no definitive and binding decision from the Holy See on the issue is unreasonably divisive, especially in the wake of the discussions of the Pope’s generous and heroic act regarding the excommunications.

    Charity is good. I need the prayers. The SSPX and especially the four bishops need prayers. The Holy Father needs prayers. Praying for the softening of hearts presumes hard hearts, though. I truly don’t think from what Bishop Fellay and the Holy Father have both said in the last week that we have lots of hard hearts to soften here. Beyond that, praying to soften hearts accuses decent Catholics of having hard hearts. Even if they are, calling them so isn’t going to help in softening them.

    Our Lady at Fatima asked for Prayer and Penance. I say that’s the best course of action here. Let’s let the men who God has put in the position of authority make the judgment call on “full communion”, “schism”, “validity” and “excommunications”.

  65. Ian says:

    A final word to Fr. Bailey (I’m not wanting to drag this on ad infinitum),

    May I say, Father, that I appreciate your comments and I think you are exactly right. For the time being, we ought to leave people in peace and let the Holy Father and Bishop Fellay hash out the details of any agreement and the status of the bishops, priests and sacraments.

    Your charitable approach to the matter is commendable and is the path toward a real unity of purpose and faith.

    Thank you, and be assured of my prayers for your intentions, Father.

  66. Fr. BJ says:


    The letter says that it can be taken with moral certainty and that no other dicastery will contradict it. In any event, you act as if the prayer request is a magisterial proclamation of invalidity or something, and therefore liable to lead people astray since it so patently contradicts what many people think. Evidently it is not, however! It is a prayer request, based on what a competent authority has said is morally certain and will not be contradicted by another dicastery. Beyond that, you fail to address other points I made, and in any case, I am not going to comment any more on this thread.

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