Do Catholics need a dispensation to marry “non-Catholic” SSPXers?

Interesting.  This is from a reader:

Some French Bishops, according to this, are considering marriages between a SSPX faithful and another Catholic as a mixed marriage.

Les mariages se multipliant en ces temps de printemps, il est désormais possible de découvrir le dernier cadeau déposé par les évêques de France (pas tous heureusement) dans la corbeille des jeunes s’apprêtant à convoler en justes noces.

Désormais, lorsque les deux parties seront fidèles de la FSSPX, il n’y aura pas de place dans les églises que leurs ancêtres ont bâties. En résumé, certains sont de trop dans l’Église… Certains ne doivent pas pouvoir s’y sentir chez eux, et toujours rejetés…

Lorsqu’une seule des deux parties sera fidèle de la FSSPX et c’est la grande nouveauté de cet après 21-janvier, il faudra demander une dispense pour mariage mixte. C’est ni plus ni moins, la dispense qui est demandée lorsque, dans un mariage, l’un des deux conjoints n’est pas catholique, mais protestant par exemple. En résumé, le jeune fidèle de la Fraternité est étiqueté et considéré comme un étranger à l’Église catholique. Accueillant, n’est-ce pas ? [pas!]

Telle est la procédure consistant à contredire la volonté romaine et qui s’est répétée plusieurs fois depuis le mois de janvier, papiers à entête diocésaine à l’appui, dans l’attente que les prêtres officiant refusent de signer des papiers aussi mensongers. Puisque Rome ne veut pas considérer la Fraternité hors de l’Église, alors nos évêques (pas tous) s’arrangent pour rappeler qu’à leurs yeux elle le serait encore plus qu’auparavant. On en finit par regretter la franchise prévalant Outre-Rhin.

Cela n’empêchera pas ces futurs foyers de vivre heureux et d’avoir beaucoup d’enfants…

So… if only one of a couple seeking to marry is an adherent of the SSPX (whatever that means… I am not sure) French bishops are saying that the Catholic party must have a dispensation to marry a non-Catholic.

What I cannot figure out here are the criteria by which they are sure that lay people are to be identified as not being Catholic.  One can argue it is easier to determine what the status of the clergy is: they are ordained illicitly, take salaries and directives, etc.  But lay people?  

Does going to a chapel which is not in union with the Church make someoe a non-Catholic?

If this questionable practice is a real policy of some bishops, or indeed the conference, I think people should ask the Holy See for a clarification of their status before asking to be married.

"Dear Cardinal Ry?ko, I want to marry Pierre, but Bishop Cauchon says I am not Catholic because I prefer to attend Mass at a chapel of the SSPX where I grew up.  I want to get married at Pierre’s family parish, but Pierre was told that he needs a dispensation to marry a non-Catholic. Is it that true?  Am I not Catholic?   The bishop made me cry.  My mother is still crying.  Anxiously, Pierette."

Perhaps some clarification is in order.

Does anyone else know about this?

I will leave the combox open, but I will warn you ahead of time.   Knuckle-head stuff will simply get you unceremoniously booted from the blog.

Included in knuckle-head stuff are the inevitable "BOO HOO! Poor US! SSPX is the TRUE CHURCH. VATICAN II IS EVIL!" comments.


Folks… really… save it.  Task me not.

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  1. LCB says:

    I hope this isn’t a knuckle headed comment…

    but really, the French Bishops should be flattered that people who are fully parts of their flock are even interested in Church marriage anymore.

    Putting up barriers to potentially drive out the few remaining Catholics in France’s mostly empty churches really doesn’t strike me as the most, ehhem, pastoral course of action.

  2. Mark says:

    I thought someone was a Catholic unless they had submitted a formal letter apostatizing.

  3. Dr. Lee Fratantuono says:

    Weddings can be one of the most taxing of occasions for any priest. No matter the sensibilities of the couple, there is all too often some or other exercise of the, “It’s my day and therefore I simply must have x or y or z, and they let so-and-so have it at Saint Expeditus’, so why over here at Sts. Procrastinus and Martinet is it such a problem?” mentality.

    In this case, if one member of the happy couple is SSPX, I can see how some French clergy might be anticipating demands for a 1962 Nuptial Mass in a parish that hasn’t seen one in decades.

    Father Z’s advice is probably the only way to go…seek clarification from the Holy See.

  4. Tim Ferguson says:

    The norms are fairly clear, and the position of these French bishops is a tad troubling.

    c. 1071, 1.4 of the Latin Code requires the priest or deacon to obtain permission of the Local Ordinary to assist at the wedding of someone who “has notoriously rejected the Catholic faith.” That would not seem to be the situation here. Someone who adheres to the SSPX, in the vast majority of cases, is not “notorious” (defined by c. 2197 the 1917 Code as something which is “publicly known and committed under such circumstances that no maneuver can conceal nor any legal defense excuse” – this citation of the 1917 Code should be seen in light of c. 19 of the ’83 Code, not out of any belief that the 1917 Code is still in force).

    One could also make a strong defense for the case that one who adheres to the SSPX, particularly a layperson who does so, is not rejecting the Catholic faith.

    In the current law, a dispensation is only required in cases where a Catholic seeks to marry an unbaptized person (c. 1086, 1 and c. 1129). In those cases, an attempt at marriage without a dispensation would render the marriage invalid.

    When a Catholic in full communion wishes to marry someone who is baptized, but not in full communion with the Church, no dispensation is required, but merely the permission of the local ordinary (c. 1124). Without this permission the marriage would be illicit, but presumptively valid.

    Since 2006, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts has, through an authentic interpretation, rendered formal defection from the Catholic Church very difficult. To do so, one must commit a public act of heresy, apostasy or schism, manifested in writing, and received as such by the competent authority. I would imagine that very few lay persons who adhere to the SSPX have fulfilled these qualifications.

    So, while an argument could be made that someone who adheres to the SSPX might not be in full communion with the Church, and thus possibly fall under the norms of c. 1124 when attempting to marry a Catholic in full communion, in my opinion, it would be a tenuous argument, especially in light of the interpretation offered by the Pont. Conc. for Legislative Texts. Even if that argument held, it would be preposterous to require a dispensation, since the individual in question would most definitely be baptized and not fall under the norms of c. 1086.

  5. Jack says:

    I’m only a simple laymen to my understanding of Cannon Law is Catholics who choose to attend Mass at an SSPX parish do not fulfil their Sunday obligation, therefore the French Bishops are mistaken and guilty of holding SSPX Catholics to a double standard (saying that they don’t fulfil the Sunday obligation whilst at the same time releasing them from said obligation by classing them as non-Catholisc). However if the reverse and SSPX Mass’s are celebrated Validly (albiet ilicitly) then the French Bishops are also mistaken.

  6. Andrew, medievalist says:

    “In the current law, a dispensation is only required in cases where a Catholic seeks to marry an unbaptized person (c. 1086, 1 and c. 1129).

    I didn’t realise that a dispensation was needed to marry a non-Catholic. Since it’s in the Code then, obviously, it must be true but it doesn’t seem to be widely known. (Unless one’s pastor mentions it upon inquiry or application).

    Of course, as my tag suggests, my knowledge of the Canon Law of marriage is still rather thirteenth century and I’m much more familiar with verba de presenti, verba de futuro, and the peculiarly English sub pena nubendi.

  7. Biff says:

    I say bravo to the French bishops. This magnanimous gesture has made it easier for couples to get such a dispensation.

    This could mean more Catholic weddings in traditional chapels just as such dispensation have seen more mixed marriages take place in Baptist churches.

    Saying that these traditionalists are in the Church would be too difficult for many bishops to accept. But, they’ll have no trouble embrassing protestants.

    If any of you question this recall that no less an authority than the great Scott Hahn has declared that SSPXers are Protestants.

    So, welcome Separated Bretheren!

  8. John Hudson says:

    I think a priest or bishop might reasonably query someone who attends an SSPX chapel about his or her reasons for doing so, to determine whether a schismatic intent exists. This is, after all, the distinction that applies to receiving communion or contributing to collection at an SSPX chapel, according to communications from Ecclesia Dei.

    To presume that a person is non-Catholic because he or she attends an SSPX chapel is unjust. To investigate why that person attends an SSPX chapel seems sensible, in that it may involve attitudes or beliefs that will be a strain upon the marriage and on the faith of both parties.

  9. John Hudson says:

    Biff: “If any of you question this recall that no less an authority than the great Scott Hahn has declared that SSPXers are Protestants.”

    With all due respect to Mr Hahn, he is not any kind of authority on this subject. There is one competent authority, appointed by the Holy Father, that can speak to the status of the SSPX, and that is the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.

  10. Boko says:

    I wonder how many lay SSPX adherents are living in sin with their intendeds before marriage? Is the percentage greater or lesser than non-SSPXers? Okay, I lied. I don’t realy wonder. I think I know. I think we all do.

  11. CDN_Canonist says:

    Before providing a response, I’d want to actually see something more concrete from the French bishop(s). The reader quoted above refers to “une dispense pour mariage mixte.” As Tim Ferguson correctly points out, no such dispensation exists for mixed marriages. I suspect the true position of the bishop(s) is not being conveyed here.

  12. Jack, Catholics who attend Mass at an SSPX chapel do fulfill their Sunday obligation. Similarly, Catholics who attend Mass at an Orthodox or Oriental Orthodox Mass fulfill their Sunday obligation, whether or not they receive communion. Such attendance can be problematic, and at times even a serious problem, and in extreme cases may constitute the sin of schism. But those problems are unrelated to Sunday obligation.

    It seems to me that the SSPX has created a parallel structure of episcopal governance. This was evident, for example, when Bishop Fellay ordered Bishop Williamson to avoid public discussions of politics, and Williamson obeyed; it was clear that both of these men recognized that W. owes obedience to B., even though B. has never been appointed W.’s superior through any juridical act recognized by the Catholic Church. Similarly, priests of the SSPX are not granted faculties by the local Catholic ordinary, and they are granted faculties by an SSPX bishop. I’m not trying to reopen the “is the SSPX in schism” debate, nor trying to accuse them of being “not Catholic”. My point is simply that the bishops of France, despite the unfair tactics they have often used, do have a legitimate grievance with SSPX priests, since these priests claim to not be in schism and yet are withholding the obedience that priests normally owe to their bishops, even when those bishops are being petty and spiteful.

    In other words, as far as I can tell — and I’m not a canon lawyer — most (all?) of the SSPX clergy do not, by their actions, recognize that the local Catholic ordinaries have authority over them. When an SSPX priest moves to a new location, he does not request incardination from the local Catholic ordinary.

    But when it comes to the laity, no such distinction exists. Laity are not incardinated into a diocese. So Fr. Z’s point is valid: there is no explicit act of allegiance that distinguishes a lay Catholic from a lay SSPX member.

    Here is a question: In SSPX chapels, during the Eucharistic Prayer, when the priest prays that his flock be “una cum famulo tuo Papa nostro N. et Antistite N.,” does he name the local Catholic ordinary, or his SSPX superior?

  13. TNCath says:

    If one can produce a valid baptismal certificate with appropriate notations for First Holy Communion and Confirmation from a Catholic parish, I would think this would properly establish the person as a Catholic, regardless of whether he or she is currently attending an SSPX parish.

    IF, however, they received their sacraments of initiation from the SSPX, I can see where this might indeed pose a problem as they are not in communion with the Church.

  14. Mark says:

    “IF, however, they received their sacraments of initiation from the SSPX, I can see where this might indeed pose a problem as they are not in communion with the Church.”

    Yes. If their baptismal records and such are only at SSPX parishes…the laity may not be incardinated like priests, but they are supposed to be registered at a parish.

    In fact, if only a presbyter of the SSPX preformed the confirmation…there’d be a question of validity (I’m not sure the SSPX bishops ever attempt to “delegate faculties” for confirmation for that very reason)…

  15. martin says:

    This sounds so silly and will only aggravate the SSPX reintegration process in France.

  16. Biff says:

    John Hudson:

    It was a joke. Just because he said doesn’t mean I REALLY think he’s an authority.

    I was just pointing out the irony of people showing great tolerance of Protestants and nothing but contempt for SSPXers

  17. JOHN says:

    Jack, Catholics who attend Mass at an SSPX chapel do fulfill their Sunday obligation. Similarly, Catholics who attend Mass at an Orthodox or Oriental Orthodox Mass fulfill their Sunday obligation, whether or not they receive communion. Such attendance can be problematic, and at times even a serious problem, and in extreme cases may constitute the sin of schism. But those problems are unrelated to Sunday obligation.


  18. The Chancery Office in Salzburg in 2006 published a decree stating that people baptized by an SSPX priest were considered to be “non-Roman Catholic Christians,” who in the event of marriage to a Catholic, were to be treated as though they were entering a “mixed marriage. The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei sent this statement to the Archdiocese of Salzburg:

    “•The four bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre are excommunicated. Priests ordained within the Fraternity are suspended for lack of a validincardination.

    •Regarding the faithful who sympathize with the SSPX, we must insist that

    a. we are dealing with Catholic faithful who — provided they have performed no explicit actions — in no way wish to leave the Roman Catholic Church;

    b. attending Masses celebrated by priests of the SSPX is not in itself a delict and does not bring about excommunication;

    c. only those of the faithful who see the SSPX as the only true church, andwho make this visible externally, incur the penalty of excommunication;

    d. it is consequently not at all appropriate to regard as non-Catholic the children baptized in the chapels of the SSPX, and to treat their marriages to another Catholic as mixed marriages;

    e. when baptism by a priest of the SSPX is attested in writing and th eparents of the newly baptized do not see the SSPX as the only true church, then this attestation suffices for registration of the baptism in the Liber Baptizatorum of the parish of baptism, under the running number 0.On the basis of this registration, a baptismal certificate can be issued.

    •The earlier edict concerning marriage to a Catholic who was baptized in an SSPXchapel (see below) is to be applied only if the Catholic thus baptized sees in the SSPX the only true church and who makes this visible externally.

    •In order to prevent misunderstandings, the Archiepiscopal Chancery Office will examine each case individually.

    From the Archiepiscopal Chancery, on 10 May 2006. Protocol number 579/06.

  19. Sam says:

    I don’t know about the specific situation, but my experience in France is that your average French Catholic (lay or ordained) freaks out at the very hint of the TLM, which for them is inevitably linked with the SSPX (I recently encouraged my friend in the east to try out a local FSSP mass following Summorum Pontificum, but he worried that his family would then think he was “schismatique”). So it doesn’t really surprise me that they would make things difficult for anyone who shows such sympathies.

  20. *Verordnungsblatt der Erzdioezese Salzburg no. 5 (5 May 2006) page 85, “Priestly Fraternity of St Pius X : Information”

  21. Kat says:


    To answer your question, the SSPX priests, at “una cum famulo tuo Papa nostro N. et Antistite N.,” say the name of Pope Benedict,followed by the ordinary of the diocese, whose name is hanging in the sacristy for any visiting priests to know it as well. The same is said during the Easter Vigil where the bishop is named in one of the prayers.

  22. Alice says:

    When I was growing up, my family used to wonder if a person who received the Sacraments of Initiation in an SSPX chapel would be a different case when it came to marriage than those of us who received the Sacraments of Initiation in parishes in communion with the local bishop. Perhaps, a layperson who was “raised SSPX” could be considered a non-Catholic while someone who made the choice to attend the chapel as an adult would be a Catholic.

    The marriage of a Catholic to a baptized non-Catholic *does* require the permission of the bishop (although, this is not technically a dispensation). It seems to me that the marriage between a member of an SSPX chapel and a member of the regular Church would face many of the same hurdles as the marriage between a non-Catholic and a Catholic, including how to raise the children and where to have the wedding without one set of parents boycotting. (Yes, there are “Novus Ordo” Catholics who boycott their children’s weddings if they take place in the wrong church.)

  23. quiet beginning says:

    Dr. Lee Fratantuono wrote:

    “…probably the only way to go…seek clarification from the Holy See.”

    Yes, but hasn’t that been precisely the problem in so, so many cases–i.e., obtaining clarification from the “Holy See?” What about the abominable position of the French clergy in casting those who adhere to the immemorial Faith of the latin tradition as being in need of a dispensation!? (What’s it going to take for people to finally get it?)

  24. PMcGrath says:

    “Dear Cardinal Rylko, I want to marry Pierre, but Bishop Cauchon …

    FYI: Bishop Pierre Cauchon, a Frenchman who supported the English, was the bishop who engineered the trial and burning at the stake of St. Joan of Arc.

  25. A marriage between two baptized Christians (Catholics) is considered a sacramental marriage. If the French bishops want to be notified if a Roman Catholic and a St. Pius X Catholic marry, this is an internal matter between the pastor and his bishop. I can’t imagine the bishop denying a Catholic marriage for this type of case, since marriage is of the Natural Law, and sacramentally instituted by the Son of God for the baptized. I see no trouble with internal notification of the respective bishop, especially since there continues an unsettled issue regarding ecclesial distinctions. However, since there is no longer any formal excommunication, these are not heretics or schismatics, therefore the issue is internal between the bishop and his pastor. If a bishop denied such a request for marriage, the couple, or the priest, could have recourse to the Holy See. I don’t think this is the intention of the French bishops, i.e., to deny the sacrament of marriage. This would seem punitive, and not in the spirit of the lifting of the excommunication done earlier this year by the Holy Father. If there is any bishop who sees the matter differently, I would be interested to hear the argument. I say this with all due respect to our bishops.

  26. David Kastel says:

    Lawrence King,
    From the front page of the SSPX website:

    “The Society of St. Pius X professes filial devotion and loyalty to Pope Benedict XVI, the Successor of Saint Peter and the Vicar of Christ. The priests of the SSPX pray for the intentions of the Holy Father and the welfare of the local Ordinary at every Mass they celebrate.”

    This seems like the part of the final throes of fury by the leftist, revolutionary, liberal French bishops who are entirely responsible for the death of the Catholic Church in France, and therefore, for the death of France itself.

  27. Boko says:

    Pas d’amis a droit. Because “pas d’ennemis a gauche” just isn’t enough.

  28. EDG says:

    This sounds like harrassment, to me. I thought you only needed a dispensation if you were marrying an unbaptized person, and there is absolutely no foundation for considering an SSPX baptism to be invalid.

  29. It would seem to me that the SSPX are in a state of disobedience to the Church but have not formally left the Church. Because of this, I wonder about the calling the SSPX non-Catholics formally in an ecclesiastical setting.

    As for those comments about double standards about how one treats Protestants vs. the SSPX, that should be obvious: The Protestants of today were born outside the Catholic Church and did not formally leave it. The SSPX is indeed in a state of disobedience which the lifting of the excommunications did not change.

    Different conditions, different treatment

  30. Noah Moerbeek says:

    Does anybody think maybe they are just saying they need a dispensation to get married in a SSPX chapel? Sense they do not currently have the faculties to marry people?

  31. stigmatized says:

    i attend mass in a diocese which is one of the seven churches mentioned in the book of revelation. in this diocese, being a member of an fssp parish, as my last parish was, is also considered to be outside the church. how do i know this? it is because i tried registering in three different parishes and was never actually registered. when i requested mass in my rite in these parishes my requests were ignored. in one of the parishes i filled out cards three times and have still to receive envelopes. i am also not allowed to read or serve or do anything in the sanctuary.

  32. C. says:

    Regardless of the canon law and theology on the matter, why doesn’t the couple STOP AND THINK about the practical ramifications of the fact that they may disagree about some deeply-held positions involving important matters.

    For example, where should the family go to Mass every Sunday? Should the kids be exposed to Communion in the hand or a culture that tolerates material sedevacantism? What happens if the SSPX priest is not available…do they go to the Novus Ordo or stay home? What kinds of pressures would the spouse’s families place upon them? What should happen if annulment proceedings are undertaken for the marriage, as both the SSPX and diocesan tribunals could claim jurisdiction.

    If religion is important in a marriage, then spiritual compatibility is also important. Third Order members should be supported by their spouses, for example. As a “trad”, I would never marry a charismatic Catholic–I have seen too many such pairings lead to unhappiness, families not going to Mass together, and both husband and wife weakened in their respective apostolates.

  33. Steve says:

    Interesting topic Father since this is the exact situation I faced when I was married last year.

    I had been assisting at a Mass celebrated by a priest from the SSPX for about 5 years when I met my wife. I live in Charlotte, NC and she was visiting her sister who lives near Raleigh when we met.

    As part of the marriage prep, we were interviewed by a deacon who worked at the parish her sister went to. This clown claimed that I wasn’t Catholic and that we’d have to get dispensation to be married. I laughed in his face. I said I’d be happy to provide him with the contact info for the (3) diocesan priests I spoke with prior to ever going to a SSPX Mass, all of whom claimed that there was no problem going to said Mass. After he hemmed and hawed some, he told me that it wouldn’t be necessary but that he profoundly disagreed with those priests. He continued to show his true colors when he said that he thought the ‘old’ Mass would disappear over the next 10 years and I preceeded to laugh at him again.

    I let my fiance (now wife) attend our ‘follow-up’ session solo.

  34. Joe says:

    I understand I guess a bit the spirit that leads people to the SSPX with regards to the Mass. But what theological reason could they have for not following the current Rite of the Church for a Marriage without Mass?
    Apart from the implications about the status of people who attend chapels of the SSPX, perhaps the requirement of a dispensation is simply to give the diocesan authorities an opportunity to discern whether the person who attends the chapel of the SSPX is practically in a state of schism. That is, if the person absolutely rejects the Novus Ordo and talks about ‘The Novus Ordo Church’ and ‘The Catholic Church’ the proposed marriage will be treated differently from one of a person who attends SSPX but talks about ‘the one Church we all love’

  35. Michael J says:


    Your question leads me to believe that you really do not understand what leads (drives, perhaps?) people to the SSPX. Simply put, it is not just about the Mass. This may be a large part for many, but it is not the only (or even the largest).

    That being said, I do not think that this is the proper thread to speculate on the possible motives of those Catholics who identify themselves with the SSPX.

  36. Roland de Chanson says:

    I am in a quandary here. I think that “knuckleheaded” is not a fair criterion for disallowing comments. As this post derives from a French article, I can only think that the closest French for “knucklehead” is crétin. This carries an etymology which would perhaps embarrass Fr. Zuhlsdorf.

    I will pass over the gourmand irony of the name of Bishop Cauchon (cochon).

    Yahweh spoke Hebrew, Jesus spoke Aramaic, but the Holy Wit speaks French.

  37. Orville says:

    In a funny kinda way I think the French Bishops might have done us all a favor.
    Clarification would come soon enough wouldn’t it?

  38. Yseult says:

    Nothing new there. Already as early as in 2005 Kardinal Lehman (Cologne) has issued a rule where a weding preparation with a follower of FSSPX was to be considered a ‘mixed marriage’ and that the preparation had to be adapted accordingly. Same went for the dispensation.

    The French clearly are just not as quick to draw as Msg. Lehmann is. Continuing to isolate intellectually schismatic-natured FSSPX follower will only solidify them in their opinion.

    Do not be too quick to judge. I grew up in FSSPX and yet in the two years leading up to my wedding with a ‘modern’ Catholic, I ‘returned’ to Rome and a living and true spirituality which I never had in FSSPX and I’ve always taken the way how my husband and I found ways to learn, forgive sins of our fathers and mothers and conciliate without destroying and change without judging to be a symbol of how it might work on a grander scale. But without an act of good will from both sides, there can be no middle ground and the Holy Father has given enough good graces. The next step needs to be coming from the other side and it needs to be found in the humility which… unfortunately they lack so much of by now.

  39. Nick says:

    Funny how some bishops thumb the fine print of cannon law when it suits them, but ignore serious destructive abuses like photo-copier annulments when it doesn’t.

    As a practical matter the Church (especially the increasingly elderly French church) should welcome Tridentine couples with open arms because these folks play Vatican rules, and have lots of children…

    Besides getting married is the easy part — its living together that’s tough….

  40. Matt Q says:

    The French bishop(s) who thought this up is more than likely interested in creating more division and prejudice than worrying about this “religious purity” routine. Is this standard applied to marrying any of the freaky Catholics of the Pelosi, Biden or Kennedy ilk? Hardly, so why should it be an issue regarding any adherents of the The Society?

    As LCB said, it should be considered a good thing anyone is wanting to get married at all. Many don’t bother and just shack up. This is why the divorce rate has declined over the past ten years. It’s because of the declining rate of marriage. No marriage conversely means no divorce. Surely the various normal precautions need to be taken as with all Catholic marriages but this French criteria bit is a false one.

  41. JC says:

    Lawrence King,
    The SSPX was recognized as a valid religious order (Father, forgive me, but I can’t think of the proper terminology right now) before its leadership went into schism. It happened to be an Order that was formed and headed by a bishop, Abp. Lefebvre. Bishop Fellay is both a bishop and the Superior General of the Order.
    In “silencing” Williamson, he was acting not in his authority as a bishop–not arrogating to himself the rights of a Patriarch–but rather acting in his authority as the Superior General of the Order.

    Otherwise, agreement with those who say that, whatever its canonical status, this would be good pastoral practice.

    I mean, we met a family at our local FSSP mass last year. They seemed rather nice until we found out they were SSPX. They said they were “only” attending that Mass because they were visiting family for Christmas, and they’d rather go to the SSPX–that where they lived, there were both available, and they opted for SSPX over FSSP. That pretty much amounts to a schismatic attitude.

    There were at least two Ecumenical Councils–and several lesser level meetings–held in the Middle Ages to negotiate reconciliation with the Orthodox. The Orthodox bishops always agreed to reunion with Rome. But they came home from those Councils, and the laity and many of the priests didn’t agree, so the bishops followed them.

    It is a general rule in religions, which we ought to know from the blogosphere, that the laity tend to be more “fanatical” than the clergy.

    A marriage even between an SSPX member and an FSSP-attending Catholic, much less one who attends the Ordinary Form, would have the same problems in its dynamic as a “mixed marriage.”

  42. Sixupman says:

    That we should be dictated to as to valid ‘faculties’ by bishops who are largely Kung-clones, de facto Protestants and even deny ‘Articles of Faith’ is ludicrous and the arguments concerning Msgr. Lefebvre and SSPX sterile and puerile!

    Get Real and Smell the Coffee! Look around you! In Scotland exalted clergy discovered in all manner of impropriety and the hierarchy keep their heads down. In my English parish, the PP preaches neo-Protestantism and criticises BXVI. The ‘Conference’ which tells me I can walk 500 yards to my CofE, or indeed Freechurch, to fulfil my Sunday Duty, instead of travelling 2, 5, or 7 hours by Sunday public transport to hear Mass. How many clergy actually believe in Confession, or indeed, how many actually go to Confession themselves – and we wonder why all and sundry go to Communion at Mass without thought of being in a State of Grace. Mother Church was a church for sinners as well as saints, not any more, all appear to be saints. If clergy do not preach and demonstrate Confession, what then of Sin, it ceases to exist? It intrigues me, a mere layman, how a priest can have the audacity to Celebrate Mass and not be in a State of Grace, or, be in denial of Catholic Articles of Faith, or, demonstrating continual public scandal. [Graham Greene philosophical arguments apart]

    The hierarchies are infected by a deep-seated psychological guilt, in relation to Msgr. Lefebvre, he persisted in his vows, whilst they failed in the same. For the record, I am persona non grata within elements of SSPX – because I believe and voice that elements (USA related) act contrary to the ethos engendered by the late Msgr.

  43. chironomo says:


    A person who was baptized Catholic, but who hasn’t attended church in 20 years since then (as is the case of many in France) is fine to be married as a Catholic, but a person who has attended Mass, even if only for a year or two, at an SSPX Chapel has to get a dispensation because they are NOT Catholic. This is truly Bizarre.

    We often have cases here where both of the couple are “Catholic” (baptized so), but one has gone to a Methodist or UCC church for years, and they are still married as Catholics. You are right that it’s very difficult to determine if the laity are “Catholic” by virtue of attending, not attending Mass or where they do so, or even don’t do so!

  44. Jack says:

    I have to agree with sixupman that a large number of Bishops are just Kung clones, I mean look at the situation in the US where only a third of the Bishops had the guts to put pen to paper and come out against notre shame !!!!! Sure there are good Othordox Catholic Bishops but i’d put up with williamson’s occasional anti-semitism than the other’s cowardly neo-modernism

  45. Maureen says:

    Speaking solely as a matter of style, please, never call anyone a “Tridentine couple” ever again. It makes it sound like such people only have three teeth between them!

    (Either that, or they eat way too much sugarless gum… or they’re fish-pitchforkers….)

  46. dcs says:

    I mean, we met a family at our local FSSP mass last year. They seemed rather nice until we found out they were SSPX. They said they were “only” attending that Mass because they were visiting family for Christmas, and they’d rather go to the SSPX—that where they lived, there were both available, and they opted for SSPX over FSSP. That pretty much amounts to a schismatic attitude.

    Or it could be that they consider the SSPX chapel their “parish” and don’t want to leave it simply because another parish opened up just down the road.

  47. Any good pastor will not burden the couple with a punitive approach. He will comply with his bishop\’s requirements, and treat this as additional paperwork. If the bishop decides not to grant the dispensation, he should have a very good reason for a denial. Have there in fact been any denials of such a request for a dispensation? I think not.

    Five years ago I married my niece in a Catholic church outside of Paris. My experience was that relatively few couples in France marry anymore. In fact, there is a single book to record all parish sacraments, whether baptisms, confirmations, marriages, etc. In the USA we usually have a separate books for each of the sacraments. In France, most couples who have Catholic parents or grandparents don\’t even marry, whether officially in Church or otherwise. And no longer do they see the need for the baptism of their children, if indeed they have children.

    If a local bishop insists on certain legal requirements for a valid sacrament, sometimes the experienced pastor complies, but he does not trouble the couple with a legalistic attitude, he treats it as additional paperwork. Recall that the right of a couple to marriage is of the natural law.

    In France, as elsewhere, priests are fortunate that they are still performing marriages, though certainly the numbers are significantly less than they were just 20 years ago. I suspect that the number of deaths to marriages, based on parish books, is about 5 to 1. I don\’t know if the bishops of France are checking the sacramental records book(s) which are being kept (hopefully) in the local parishes. Any analysis being done with these records could be a reality check. Also, it could serve as the basis for more effective pastoral ministry.

    Anyway, this is my subjective appreciation.

  48. joshua says:

    The standards for formal defection must be weighed here. If I was legally baptised, only a formal juridicial act can formally defect me. Hence it is IMPOSSIBLE that merely attending the SSPX can render one formally defected, just as it is impossible that attending a protestant church would do so. People do realise that right?

    Besides, the SSPX as such is not schismatic or heretical or apostate. But to formally defect one’s bishop/pastor must have judged them to have formally committed one of those three…which act must be manifested in writing to them. Highly unlikely even in the small minority of those who attend the SSPX who might also be schismatic (and I emphasize minority, against those who are quick to condemn here. I know many SSPX adherents that, though I disagree with them, give me a good picture, including the local priests of the SSPX who recognise the local bishop and heck even publish the USCCB movie reviews in their bulletin, which I would not).

  49. Patrick McNally says:

    We make our Savior and His mother weep on a daily basis. It occurs to me that the two things that must make them weep most is, first, rejecting His love, sacrifice and salvation…but second, this disunity among Christians…especially between factions of His Body on earth. God is Truth and Love…He is NOT Truth OR Love. When one subsumes the other, unfaithfuylness and disunity emerges. You literalist detail police must remember and keep the Love part…likewise, you “it’s all good” “social-justice-to-the-exclusion-of-any-real-commitment-to-opposing-abortion-etc…” folks, try to remember and keep the Truth in balance with all your overspraying Love and occasional Mass attendance…and a word to both sides: Quit harummphing and criticizing those other guys…everyone is at a different place on the path…why dontcha just pray more and harder for them. Go to Confession, then go to Mass…pray for someone you don’t like and be nice. Rinse, repeat…MORE OFTEN!!!

    Thank you Father Z and Father Sirico…May God richly bless you and everyone who reads this today…everyone whom you/they love and everyone for whom you/they pray.


  50. ssoldie says:

    Who is the ‘lover’ of chaos and confusion?, and who benefits from disunity caused by chaos and confusion. His name is satan, devil, lucifer, the evil one. I believe the devil has loved these last forty years.

  51. Entrapment

    If, hypothetically, some renegade priest or bishop anywhere in the Church would insist on calling such a marriage “mixed”, any layman signing on to such a mixed-marriage form would, in effect, be making a public declaration against union with the Church.

    This is entrapment under duress and in hostile, mocking, ironic circumstances, because of which, I don’t think that even then would there be an excommunication.

    The sole person at fault would be this or that renegade priest or bishop. Yet, great damage will have been done to the couple.

    I can’t tell you how many, many times here in Lourdes that I’ve heard that FSSPXers are Protestants. I’ve met plenty of renegade priests and even a renegade bishop or two here in Lourdes (as everyone comes to Lourdes from all over the world, and not just Francophones!). It would be consistent with the attitudes of such priests and bishops to insist on mixed marriage.

    But to trick someone into leaving the Church seems to me to be an offense which would call into question the viability of the ministry of any such priest or bishop.

  52. Kevin V. says:

    Perhaps the SSPX’er should seek a dispensation to marry in a non-Catholic chapel, if they intend in marrying in the typical French parish!

  53. Peggy says:

    It seems that the only issue is the validity of the sacraments, most importantly baptism and confirmation. Now, the marrying priest might ask as to one’s status as being a Catholic in good standing, such as attending Sunday and HDO masses. I am not aware that the Church has declared sacraments or liturgy invalid if provided by an SSPX priest. I don’t see how a bishop can declare such sacraments invalid.

  54. Geoffrey says:

    “That raises the question of the status of those who belong to a garden variety Novus Ordo parish and disagree with the Church’s teaching on sexual morals.”

    I think that would be heresy.

  55. irishgirl says:

    Very sad….though I had to grin foolishly at the Bishop Cauchon reference.

    Was he put in there because the Feast of St. Joan of Arc is this coming Saturday?

    Just sayin’….

    The ‘Eldest Daughter’ has stumbled again….sigh….

  56. Mark says:

    Baptism is obviously valid. Confirmation is if preformed by a bishop for sure, but it is unclear how an SSPX bishop could delegate faculties canonically to a lesser presbyter. But I think they usually always have one of the bishops preform it for that very reason.

  57. Richard says:

    Apparently the decline in marriage is so bad that most children in France are born to unmarried couples (as in the UK).

  58. quiet beginning says:

    “Included in knuckle-head stuff are the inevitable “BOO HOO! Poor US! SSPX is the TRUE CHURCH. VATICAN II IS EVIL!” comments.”

    Vatican II is not evil?

  59. Precentrix says:

    Just to say,

    I am in France, in a ‘trad’ setting… the boys at the school where I work are from traditional Catholic families, some attend the OF when at home, some the EF in either FSSP or ICRSP chapels/parishes, and some are SSPXers. Now, admittedly, I’m not expecting to hear this stuff from teenaged kids, but we do have contact with the parents, and I have heard nothing whatsoever about this. Given that it would constitute fairly juicy trad gossip, *someone* here would have mentioned it, I think!

    If you check out the original post on le forum catho, you will find that the OP actually admitted to having not the slightest jot of evidence or an official statement from the French bishops or, indeed, any individual bishop.


    Just saying…!

    FWIW, our local ordinary has stuck his neck out once again in support of our little school in coming here to perform the traditional-form confirmations and is about to register himself on ‘spine alert’ for a related matter… all shall be revealed. :)

  60. B. says:

    I don’t know about France, but the Austrian archdiocese of Salzburg definitely tried this. They declared to be those baptized by the FSSPX to be non-Catholics (see this document, page 126).

    The Vatican overruled their decision and clearly said that those are to be treated as Catholics and can have their baptism registered in the parish registry, and their marriages are not to be regarded as mixed marriages. See this document, file 2006-05…, page 85.

    Both files are the official files of the archdiocese of Salzburg.

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