Bishop confirms 19 people at SSPX chapel. Can you say “Win Win Scenario”?

Our friends at Rorate have publicized that a French bishop, Most. Rev. Jean Bonfils, Emeritus of Nice went to an SSPX chapel in Ajaccio, Corsica and administered the sacrament of Confirmation to 19 people.

It seems that the local SSPX priest was on his way out of the SSPX door and that Bp. Bonfils did not have anything worked out with the SSPX Superior Bp. Fellay. The SSPX priest was working out incardination in a diocese.

That said, about a zillion people have emailed me asking my take on this.

My initial thought was, “OUTSTANDING! We need more of this!”

My second thought was, “OUTSTANDING! We need more of this!”

Then I consulted a canon lawyer to find out if there was something I might have over looked in my enthusiasm.

Here is a response I received back from the canonist (My usual stuff added.):

This would seem to be something of a canonical win-win situation for the bishop and the faithful. The bishop (-then administrator) of the diocese confirmed members of his faithful [they are his faithful even if they never go to a regular church] who had been duly prepared for the sacrament. The use of the Extraordinary Form for administering confirmation is clearly an option for bishops since Universae Ecclesiae. According to canon 881, the sacrament of confirmation ordinarily is to be celebrated in a church, which might give rise to the question of whether the SSPX church is indeed a “church” according to the law (cf. canons 1214 and 1215). However, canon 881 extends permission for confirmation to be celebrated “for a just and reasonable cause…in any fitting place,” so that question is, with regards to this question, a merely academic one.

I have long thought it to be a failing of most diocesan bishops to omit proper sollicitude for the clergy and the faithful who attend the SSPX chapels in their diocese. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?] Regardless of the irregular erection of some of these chapels and the irregular status of their clergy, the faithful remain subject to the diocesan bishop, who is bound to care for them. [Do I hear another “Amen!”? … QUAERITUR:] How many priests and faithful would be brought back to unquestionably full communion with the Church if the local pastors started acting more like Bishop Bonfils, or even bolder – just showing up appropriately vested ten minutes before Mass (leaving too-little time for the chain of command to issue a bureaucratic refusal) and even merely sitting in choir during the Mass. [OORAH!] Or inviting the SSPX priests to dinner at the bishop’s house (or a neutral site, if they are particularly paranoid – some of which are with good reason). One of the taglines that gets pushed at every parish and diocesan seminar seems to be “creating a welcoming community” – how have we done in welcoming the SSPX clergy and the faithful who go to their chapels back into a more regular status with the Church? Seems to me that this action of Bishop Bonfils seems to go a long way.

Just a few more canonical details – I hope that Bishop Bonfils makes certain that these confirmations are registered in the sacramental books of the territorial parish which covers the area where the SSPX chapel is or the diocesan curia, and that he’s made certain that the notices have been sent to the baptismal churches of the faithful who were confirmed so that the appropriate notations can be made (c. 894)

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  1. Phil_NL says:

    Excellent indeed. As the bishops confirm Catholics with poor attendance and poor preparation anyway (the latter rarely the confirmand’s fault), there’s no reason why the bishop shouldn’t be just as anxious to get these youngsters confirmed, who are very unlikely to suffer from either of those issues. In any case, they have never been excommunicated, and as laymen not subject to any other impediment from their association with the SSPX if they don’t have schism on their mind (if they did, they’d surely had withdrawn), so they are part of the Church, plain and simple, and deserve a bishop confirming them.

    Of course, from the other side, there is likely to be an absolute insistance on the EF of the sacrament, but one that the bishop, for the sake of good pastoral relations, would be wise to follow. It’s a perfectly fine option, after all.

    And last but not least, also in the more general scheme of things, it might be good if this became (a more) common practice. The SSPX has only 4 bishops after all, with Fellay undoubtedly very busy with the discussions, and Williamson best kept far, far from the public eye and jurisdictions where he could be prosecuted for his drivel. I’m pretty sure that, if they could be assured that everything is done solidly according to the old books, the SSPX bishops wouldn’t mind having to fly a bit less across the globe for confirmations.

    Local relations boviously also stand to gain, so win all around – keep it up!

  2. akp1 says:

    Sounds like excellent news. Big smile :-)))

  3. Phil_NL says:

    hmm that ‘boviously’ should have been ‘obviously’, though perhaps an evening spent by the bishops and the SSPX priests in a good steak restaurant wouldn’t be a bad interpretation either.

  4. NoraLee9 says:

    This hearkens back to our fabulous Father Zendejas SSPX and our fabulous Father Peter Rofrano, Pallotine Order, at the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, 2004. Father Rofrano let the SSPX community have a Mass in the Pallotine Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on the day of the feast, and for one or two successive Sundays, until ordered by the Cardinal to stop. Father Rofrano has gone to his reward. The Cardinal in question is now emeritus.

    My how times change, and G-d’s will be done!

  5. Maltese says:

    This is confirmation (pun intended), in the very least, that the priests of the SSPX are validly ordained…

    Things have come a long way since the sinister Cardinal Villot strong-armed the FSSPX in the 70’s. I pray, that as a first step, our Holy Father lifts the a divinus suspensions of SSPX’s priests.

  6. mamajen says:


  7. ipadre says:

    I wish there were some nearby. We could learn a lot from one another. I would be happy to take Latin classes from them!

  8. It seems to have become the norm that the sacrament of confirmation is NOT administered by a bishop but is deputed to the local pastor. This was not, of course, the norm before the current age of enlightenment and the SSPX, not being beneficiaries of this enlightenment, may not have the same flexibility to depute their priests for this sacramental purpose.

    Our FSSP parish serves two dioceses and neither bishop is available to us for confirmations, deputing to our pastor the proper faculties to administer this sacrament. In the same way that it would be pastorally beneficial for bishops to reach out to SSPX priests and communities, bishops would accomplish wonders if they reached out in this same way to those members of their flock who prefer the Extraordinary Form and for whom there are no canonical issues. FSSP parishes can feel just as isolated from the local church as any SSPX community.

    Overall, there should be a return to the norm that a bishop is the ordinary minister of the sacrament of confirmation, whether NO or EF. The sacrament is, of course, valid in any case, but there’s something about “sacramental sign and witness” that is lost when confirmation becomes just another concelebrated sacrament where all available priests proceed to lay hands on all those to be confirmed.

    Good for Bishop Bonfils that he just did the right thing without first weighing all the potential fallout from the enlightened around him.

  9. irishgirl says:

    This is indeed wonderful news!
    ‘Bonfils’-what a fitting name for this Bishop! ‘Good son’ of the Church, he is!

  10. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Terry Carroll — The parish priest has pretty much always been the normal Confirmation guy, when it comes to Easter Vigil and other RCIA stuff, because there’s too many on Easter Vigil night and the bishop can neither go everywhere nor have everyone come to him.

    That said, it’s true that the bishop should ideally have a personal link with every Catholic in his diocese, and personally Confirming kids is part of that.

    Re: looking out for everybody in a diocese, I still like St. Isidore’s old Latin word for a bishop: “speculator”, a scout.

  11. Centristian says:

    I’m glad to read that the priest in question is on his way out the door. That’s good. As far as I can see, that is the best that can be hoped for at this point…that individual Lefebvrist clergymen might depart the “SSPX” and be individually regularized.

    I’m also glad to see that the local bishop recognizes that the Roman Catholics in his diocese who happen to present themselves at the local “SSPX” chapel are, indeed, members of HIS flock, and not members of Fellay’s flock or of Tissier’s flock or of anybody else’s flock. Fellay has no flock. Tissier has no flock. The “SSPX” have no flock. Diocesan bishops should care enough to intervene and remind individual laypersons who turn to the “SSPX” clergy for the sacraments that THEY are their bishops…and not Fellay, Tissier, deGalarreta, and Williamson.

    But do Fellay and the other Lefebvrist bishops see things that way? I’m really not convinced that they do, to be honest, for all their claims to being non-jurisdictional. I know that Tissier, at least, once offered a sermon in which he pointed out that the faithful who turn to the SSPX bishops for sacraments are likewise compelled to submit to them in obedience, for the very reasons they turn to them for sacraments.

    Diocesan bishops should know better, however, and this bishop shows that he gets it. They don’t all get that, however. While I don’t expect the “SSPX” bishops to get it, I do expect Catholic bishops to understand this and to behave accordingly. I was flabbergasted recently when a friend of mine who is a diocesan priest told me he needed to get special permission from the diocese to marry a parishioner of his own to another Roman Catholic of the same diocese who attends Mass at an SSPX chapel. The chancellor of the Diocese actually had to grant the bishop’s dispensation because “the girl belonged to a non-Catholic Church”. What nonsense! The Lefebvrists have no laity, no matter what Tissier or others might suggest. That girl was a Roman Catholic subject to her local bishop.

    Now, I wonder if this confirmation will be left by the “SSPX” superiors to stand. Or, will all the confirmands now be subjected to a “conditional reconfirmation” by Fellay, Tissier, deGalarreta, or Williamson? For what it may be worth, one commentator on the “Rorate” blog offers this observation:

    “I have heard that when Bishop Manat of Thailand did confirmations for the SSPX in Asia, Bishop Tissier protested until the confirmands were conditionally reconfirmed – obviously because he believes NO [Novus Ordo] bishop’s consecrations to be dubious. Obviously Bishop Manat has not officiated at any SSPX event since, despite having pledged his full support to the SSPX’s position.”

    These conditional reconfirmations do happen. I, myself, was conditionally reconfirmed by an SSPX bishop when I entered their seminary. To me, that speaks volumes with regard to who needs to return to who, as a “group”, as far as the Lefebvrists are concerned. I have little doubt that the confirmands will at the very least be offered the opportunity to be reconfirmed by Fellay or Tissier or deGalarreta or Williamson (or a priest deputed by them), should any of them have any doubts about the validity of a sacrament received from a “Novus Ordo” bishop. That’s the way they roll.

    But yes, let local bishops do this sort of thing. “Hi, I heard you had confirmations scheduled today, and since I’m your bishop I assume that you meant for me to show up and do them…so here I am. Line up.”

  12. Sixupman says:

    It was some time ago that the relations between SSPX and Diocesan clergy was one of cordiality and the Diocesan clergy attended SSPX conferences and hospitality – as indeed some Anglo-Catholic clergy who were neighbours.

    Centristian: The Diocesan, in greater number, abandoned their flocks post-Vatican II and in a manner completely lacking in Charity at best and with vitriolic epithets at worst. Where else were they to turn, but to SSPX or itinerant priests in good standing.

    Just look at you Diocesan bishops’ behaviour throughout the World, how many act in or demonstrate a sensus Catholicus, not many!

  13. Sixupman says:

    Mea Culpa for typos!

  14. thefeds says:

    I agree completely, Father Z. How could this piece of news be anything but a win for everyone involved. As you are wont to point out, Pope Benedict XVI is the Pope of Christian Unity!

  15. jhayes says:

    Rotate has an update:

    To understand this update, you have to know that Bishop Bonfils is not the current Bishop of Nice. He is retired and was appointed as the administrator of the Diocese of Ajaccio (where the SSPX church is) pending the installation of the new Bishop. According to Rorate’s update, he has already agreed to incardinate the SSPX priest in the diocese of Ajaccio.

    Addendum: Unfortunately, things do not look as rosy as reported above. We hear the following from trusted sources: (1) that the local SSPX priest, Fr. Hervé Mercury, was already in a process of exclusion from the SSPX, due to personal divergences with his superiors; (2) that, differently from what was mentioned above, the celebration was not conducted out of any sort of agreement with the SSPX General House; (3) that the same Fr. Mercury is already in the process of incardination in the local diocese, in agreement with the same Bp. Bonfils. These things are not particularly bad in themselves, but they completely change the tone of what took place: not a disinterested pastoral visit, but a complex dispute between a priest who wishes to leave a society, his superiors, and a local diocesan bishop.

  16. asperges says:

    The greatest danger for SSPX is one of isolation. In France in particular there are a great many of the (very few – 5% or less) practising Catholics who attend their Masses. It is of the greatest importance that the stand-off between the “official” and “unofficial” set-ups is broken and a gesture by the local Bishop like this can only be a step in the right direction. The endless analysis of whose fault it was and who started the split may be subsumed into an accommodation like this, especially if the talks in Rome go on and on, perhaps for years.

    Most who attend SSPX Masses go there for what they represent (orthodoxy, liturgy, conservatism), not because they are signed-up members of the SSPX with loyalty only to them. More of such a rapprochement can only do good.

  17. Phil_NL says:

    With the comments from Centristian and jhayes it becomes interesting what Fellay cs will make of this. Again, I stand by my position that they might as well see it as one less flight in their busy schedule, but based on these comments, there’s a big chance that they might go all high feather and conditionally reconfirm the youngsters (now that’s an insult to the entire Church, if you ask me), or moan endlessly about Rome preying on ‘their’ flock or something equally silly, out of spite or feeling outplayed.

    Fact is that Bp Bonfils did exactly what should be expected of him, if the SSPX is indeed part of the Church. The reaction from Econe will be telling.

  18. The Egyptian says:

    many times it is the SMALL steps that win a war, the grand plans tend to fail, God Bless the Bishop

  19. jhayes says:

    I suppose the question is whether with the fomer SSPX priest incardinated in the diocese, will the bishop appoint him as pastor of a diocesan parish – and will he bring his flock from the SSPX chapel with him?

  20. Why can’t the SSPX be canonically established by each individual bishop if Rome keeps stalling? [Yes, a bishop could receive one or some or many priests of the SSPX. With the help of the Holy See it wouldn’t be hard, were they to approach a benevolent bishop.] Besides, they are a religious order [Not quite.] like the Franciscans and Dominicans, and they are affiliated with some Dominicans.

    In terms of jurisdiction, the SSPX technically has no boundaries, and the 4 bishops are “exempt” bishops, for which they are not subject to a metropolitan archbishop. [Diocesan bishops are not “subject” to the region’s archbishop.] They also do not have titular sees (at least I don’t think so), which also makes them “exempt.”

    The ordinary minister of Confirmation is the diocesan bishop, but sometimes auxiliary bishops confirm. So is this a violation? [No.]

    Often times diocesan bishops refuse to confirm parishioners of an FSSP or diocesan Latin Mass parish, so any bishop then can confirm them.

    Now in terms with weddings; unfortunately traditional religious orders cannot get along. But it gets worse:

    For example, if I were to marry a girl whose family attended a Novus Ordo Church, but she was smart enough to leave and attend the TLM with me. Her parents want her to marry in her childhood “parish” (pending legal requirements), and we interview with that priest, and he refuses to accommodate a TLM, stating we must get married in a NO in order to marry there. Now I understand that supposedly the bride’s parents parish takes precedent, [There is no law that states that.] but if I am a Traditionalist, [You should say perhaps Catholic.] my parish and I take precedent. It’s like a Eastern Rite girl marrying a Roman Rite guy, even though she attended the Byzantine Liturgy all her life, she has to marry at a TLM because I take precedent. [Eastern Rite Catholics are subjects of their own Churches. That is a different matter.]

  21. The Cobbler says:

    “One of the taglines that gets pushed at every parish and diocesan seminar seems to be “creating a welcoming community” – how have we done in welcoming the SSPX clergy and the faithful who go to their chapels back into a more regular status with the Church?”
    Typically they don’t mean to create a welcoming community when they say “creating a welcoming community”, they mean just the opposite: to create a community exclusive of non-Modernists and non-extroverts.

    I have as much personal beef with the “welcoming” crap, all of which essentially amounts to a condemnation of introverts and consciences, as with Modernism, though, so that’s one of the lenses I view these things through.

  22. The Cobbler says:

    As far as win-win goes, if the SSPX considers things like that acceptable, it would leave many of us wondering what the big deal is with their separation in the first place — which suggests to me that they will instead interpret it as a hostile takeover, since historically they’ve made sure not to back down on things that would suggest their differences aren’t a big deal (e.g. having a regular position alongside priests who celebrat the Mass in the New Order).

  23. UncleBlobb says:

    I’m voting this canonist for bishop!

  24. James Waters says:

    God bless this bishop – here’s hoping that more of this happens.

    I must say, however, that I am interested in seeing the reaction of the SSPX. I am from South Africa and was (once) a dedicated SSPX supporter. Though confirmed by my local bishop, I received conditional confirmation from Bishop Williamson in 1999 (mea culpa) at the instigation of the SSPX priest who visited our chapel. This is standard practice.

    As for marriages – the erstwhile District Superior of the SSPX in our part of the world, a known “hardliner”, made rules for the District regarding mixed marriages which repeated the strictest pre-Vatican II rules (no marriage before the High Altar, etc) – and took this a step further and “decreed” that Novus Ordo Catholics were to be treated in the same way. I have never heard that this rule has been rescinded or relaxed by his successors. He was a good, sincere, zealous man, but misguided, to the point that he and his successors instruct “their” faithful never to attend non-SSPX TLM’s even if it means *missing Mass on a day of obligation*.

    Please God these hardliners are a minority and better sense will prevail, but I am not overly confident of this.

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  26. Supertradmum says:

    Cool, and may this happen more and more elsewhere.

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