ASK FATHER: Valid absolution from Orthodox priest, but not from SSPX priest?

From a reader…


Why is absolution from an Orthodox priest valid but absolution from an SSPX priest invalid? I was told by someone that this is one argument from the SSPX as to why their Confessions are valid.

This won’t satisfy some SSPXers – what will? – but the answer lies in the concept of jurisdiction.  I’ve explained this before on this blog, but let’s try again in yet another way.

Absolution of sins is both a sacramental and a juridical act.

The sacramental and juridical aspects cannot be separated. They are intertwined.

A priest’s sacramental authority, or power, to forgive sins comes from his ordination, the ontological change to his soul from Holy Orders.  A priest’s juridical authority to forgive sins comes from the bishop, the chief judge of the diocese (… or his religious superior).

The Church says that a priest must have both to be able to absolve validly.

The priests of the Society of St. Pius X have separated themselves from the legitimate authority of the diocesan bishop, in union with the Roman Pontiff.  Since they have no connection to the local bishop’s authority, they are not given faculty – permission – to hear to absolve.  They lack the jurisdiction to do so. The SSPX bishops are not diocesan bishops who are authorized to share their jurisdiction to absolve, to exercise the power of the keys, as it were.  The SSPX bishops are an anomaly unheard of in Christian tradition: bishops without no diocese, either actual/real or titular.  They are like husbands without wives.  They have orders but no jurisdiction.  They are like husbands without wives.

Therefore, they have no basis to claim any jurisdiction for themselves, let along provide jurisdiction to a priest. As my old pastor Msgr. Schuler used to say, Nemo dat quod non got.

By contrast, an Orthodox priest is in communion with a bishop who has a diocese. That bishop, while in schism, has jurisdiction over his flock. Since he has jurisdiction, he can share that jurisdiction with priests that are subject to him. They have both orders and jurisdiction.  Therefore, their absolution is valid.

A Catholic –unless he had no reasonable recourse to a Catholic priest (reasonable time to find one, distance to travel, other moral reasons) – would illicitly confess to an Orthodox priest, but the absolution would be valid.  Both the sacramental and jurisdictional required for validity would be met.

That is a bit about what lies behind some of the Canons in the Latin Church’s 1983 Code of Canon Law, such as:

Can. 966 §1. The valid absolution of sins requires that the minister have, in addition to the power of orders, the faculty of exercising it for the faithful to whom he imparts absolution.

§2. A priest can be given this faculty either by the law itself or by a grant made by the competent authority according to the norm of ? can. 969.  [Even a priest who has been laicized automatically has the faculty when a person is in danger of death.]

Can. 967 §1. In addition to the Roman Pontiff, cardinals have the faculty of hearing the confessions of the Christian faithful everywhere in the world by the law itself.  Bishops likewise have this faculty and use it licitly everywhere unless the diocesan bishop has denied it in a particular case. [Every Cardinal is at least a priest (sacerdos) as are bishops.]

§2. Those who possess the faculty of hearing confessions habitually whether by virtue of office or by virtue of the grant of an ordinary of the place of incardination or of the place in which they have a domicile can exercise that faculty everywhere unless the local ordinary has denied it in a particular case, without prejudice to the prescripts of ? can. 974, §§2 and 3.  [SSPX aren’t incardinated anywhere and no one has given them faculties.]

§3. Those who are provided with the faculty of hearing confessions by reason of office or grant of a competent superior according to the norm of cann. ? 968, §2 and ? 969, §2 possess the same faculty everywhere by the law itself as regards members and others living day and night in the house of the institute or society; they also use the faculty licitly unless some major superior has denied it in a particular case as regards his own subjects.  [The Holy See itself has clarified that they don’t have faculties.]


Can. 969 §1. The local ordinary alone is competent to confer upon any presbyters whatsoever the faculty to hear the confessions of any of the faithful. Presbyters who are members of religious institutes, however, are not to use the faculty without at least the presumed permission of their superior.  [The SSPX superior does not have the authority to grant faculties.]


Can. 970 The faculty to hear confessions is not to be granted except to presbyters who are found to be suitable through an examination or whose suitability is otherwise evident.  [It is not that the SSPX priests are “unsuitable” in regard to knowledge or good will or holiness.  They are good men for the most part. They are separated from proper authority, which makes them unsuitable.]


I could go on, but that is sufficient for now.

I long for the day that the SSPX priests will be fully re-integrated with proper authorities and will be able to set all these things aside.

Comment moderation is ON.

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  1. Michael says:

    Isn’t there a step missing? Don’t Orthodox bishops need to derive their jurisdiction from assignment (or at least acknowledgment of their assignment, given the relative autonomy given the Eastern Catholic Churches) by the Roman Pontiff?

    If not, aren’t they essentially assigning themselves jurisdiction over a particular territory? Why couldn’t members of the SSPX do the same?

    [In the case of the Orthodox, we are talking about an actual historical Church, with properly installed bishops and dioceses. This is decidedly not the case with the SSPX. The Orthdox broke something, ecclesial communion as actual Churches, that they had. The SSPX never had this.]

  2. Tim Ferguson says:

    I think it’s important to note that the SSPX bishops – unlike the Orthodox bishops – do not claim any territorial jurisdiction. When they offer Mass in a particular territory, they mention the name of the diocesan bishop in the Canon of the Mass. They are quite clear in stating that they do not have lay faithful, or a territory – they consider themselves to be akin to a personal Ordinary, a religious superior. Religious superiors can grant many types of faculties, but they cannot grant the faculty to absolve; that must come from a local Ordinary, i.e. the Ordinary of a place.

    The Church recognizes the Orthodox bishops’ claim to territorial extension in virtue of the historical nature of the schism which separated East from West. Those bishops clearly possessed jurisdiction, and have validly passed that jurisdiction on to their legitimate hierarchical descendents.

  3. Stephen Matthew says:

    The Pope recognizes that the seperated churches in the East are in fact actual Churches, which is a very important distinction. It means they do possess actual hierarchy and faithful people, etc. Since it is constituted of bishops, priests, deacons, religious, and lay people, united under a patriarch (or equivalent) I don’t think there is much argument that they do not have bishops with authority over their own people, though perhaps that jurisdiction is in some ways imperfect due to schism.

    The SSPX is not now, nor could it ever be, classed as a real church. It has no ordinary lay faithful, nor any authority over any who are not formally members. Thus it can have no jurisdiction over the lay faithful of some other Ordinary in the church. This is particularly the case in that all of the clergy of the SSPX are suspended, and no one who is suspended can exercise the powers of some office they are suspended from.

    The Church, in her mercy, does grant any who are validly ordained the ability to absolve those in danger of death.

    Peter has the keys, and Peter may declare what is loosed and what is retained. Peter has determined that the sins of those in an SSPX confessional shall be retained by them. What is bound on earth by the power of the keys is bound in heaven by that same power. What a terrible power and what a terrible verdict this is, but woe to all who disobey.

  4. LadyMarchmain says:

    But, the Orthodox Church denies that the Pope has any authority at all, and is historically and theologically a schismatic church, while the SSPX acknowledges the Papacy, in no way depart from Catholic doctrine and tradition, and are not in schism (just not in “full” communion, but they are in communion).

    The SSPX doesn’t see itself as a church separate from Rome, it is a Catholic church. The Orthodox is not.

    [Isn’t it great that they don’t see themselves as separate? They could demonstrate their sense of unity by a manifest submission to the Roman Pontiff and then petition him, humbly, for regularization.]

  5. robtbrown says:

    Tim Ferguson,

    1. Religious superiors have the faculty to hear confessions of those in their religious institute or living night and day in the house of the institute Those superiors can also grant the faculties to any priest (not merely of the religious institute) to hear the confessions of those in the house. ccc 968 . . .

    2. I agree with the point of history that that there are Orthodox Churches in Apostolic Succession without Rome. On the other hand:

    A schismatic episcopal consecration is one that occurs without pontifical mandate (sine pontificio mandato). Both the SSPX and the Orthodox Churches would seem to qualify.

    Further, what is the jurisdiction of Orthodox Churches that are in the US or Canada?

  6. WesleyD says:

    Charles Journet argued that the Popes, through explicit and/or implicit acts, have supplied the Orthodox Churches with those powers of jurisdiction necessary for the validity of the sacraments of Penance and Confirmation. (The Church of the Word Incarnate, trans. Downes, Sheed & Ward, 1955, pp. 506-8.) Journet’s argument is interesting, and while he is merely one theologian, his works were well-respected by Paul VI, and have been sadly ignored by many theologians since the 1960s. [Card. Journet’s argument seems pretty reasonable.]

  7. BBJohn says:

    Only issue I would like for more clarification is that this seems to make the “requirement to posses jurisdiction over a geographical location” higher precedence to “acceptance of the Pope and his jurisdiction”. That seems wrong.

    What I mean to say is that the Orthodox Bishops (Patriarchs) do reject the Papacy. Yet they are considered as having jurisdictional authority because they have a geographical location over which they preside. [?] The SSPX Bishops accept the Papacy (at least that is what they claim and their case is very much different from the Orthodox anyway) but they do not have jurisdictional authority.

    So it seems like the Church is essentially saying that having a location is more important than acceptance of Papal authority. That seems a little odd considering that Bishops derive their authority from the Pope. [No, bishops “derive” their authority from Christ. They are successors of the Apostles. Bishops, however, in union with the roman Pontiff receive their jurisdiction from him.]

    One could bring up the historical argument again and say that the SSPX Bishops are problematic because they never had a geographical location. But that still doesn’t change the fact that the argument boils down to saying “Orthodox have a piece of land, the SSPX don’t have such a land”. [The Orthodox Churches have people. The SSPX – the members of which are priests, it being a priestly fraternity – do not.]

    So can someone clarify this matter a bit further.

  8. brhenry says:

    Would it be accurate to say that the SSPX currently have no formal connection with any Holy See recognized Apostolic Church?

    [Good question. The SSPX were originally properly established under proper authority, but they encountered problems. The Holy See says that their priests and bishops are suspended a divinis. The bishops are no longer excommunicated, and so they can go to confession now when they need to. They seem to have some connection, but John Paul II did write the word “schism” in Ecclesia Dei adflicta.]

  9. Actually, according to CIC c. 966, sect. 2: it is the major superior of a religious institute that has the power to grant faculties to priests of the institute, not any superior. So, for example, a prior provincial may do so (he is a major superior) but a conventual prior cannot. I might add that an abbot is a major superior. Also to live “day and night” in a house of an institute means to live there habitually, not merely a day and a night. Furthermore the faculties granted allow the hearing of the confession only of members of the institute not outsiders, unless the outsider lives habitually in a house of the institute. This would also be the case for a outside priest living habitually in the house of an institute who has received faculties from the major superior.

  10. Geoffrey says:

    Thank you, Father, for the concise summary of the entire sad situation. “They are like husbands without wives” is an excellent way to put it.

    I have to say that I am surprised that the Holy See allows this “anomaly” to go on for so long. It is “okay” to attend SSPX Masses, but surely the Holy See knows that many of the faithful are receiving other sacraments from SSPX clergy as well. I find the entire notion of invalid sacramental absolution a terrifying thought.

  11. Tim Ferguson says:

    Thank you for that correction and clarification – I suppose an argument could be made that the superiors of the SSPX could validly absolve those who are members of their institutes, but that would only encompass the professed members of the SSPX – the priests, brothers, and those seminarians who are professed.

    Again I think the distinction is that Orthodox bishops, while in schism from Rome, are heads of Churches – they are bishops ordained to lead a specific flock, they are “married” to a diocese. Even in those areas that are not traditionally Orthodox, they have faithful who adhere to their Church, whom they lead. The Pope tacitly acknowledges their jurisdiction over their flocks – even outside of their historical territory. The SSPX bishops do not have dioceses, not even titular dioceses – as Fr. Z says – they are a real anomaly in the history of the Church – husbands without wives, bishops without dioceses. They claim authority over no flock, nor territory. The faithful who attend their chapels are, by their own reckoning, Roman Catholics.

    Whereas a person baptized into the Greek Orthodox Church and living in the United States, were he to be deprived of valid absolution of his sins from his pastor, he would be left high and dry – since he would not be morally able to seek absolution from a Roman Catholic priest. Therefore the Church, in Her mercy, grants recognition, if you will, of the jurisdiction of the Orthodox priest.

    A person attending an SSPX chapel is, by all reckoning, a Roman Catholic. He has full access to absolution from a Roman Catholic priest in good standing. There is no privation there.

  12. totustuusmaria says:

    This doesn’t seem right because of Satis Cognitum 15 [Leo XIII – 1896]: “. From this it must be clearly understood that Bishops are deprived of the right and power of ruling, if they deliberately secede from Peter and his successors; because, by this secession, they are separated from the foundation on which the whole edifice must rest. They are therefore outside the edifice itself; and for this very reason they are separated from the fold, whose leader is the Chief Pastor; they are exiled from the Kingdom, the keys of which were given by Christ to Peter alone.”

    Isn’t a more probably explanation that the jurisdiction is expressely conceded in certain circumstances by Canon 844 para 2 to Orthodox priests, but it isn’t conceded to Catholic priests lacking faculties in the same circumstances?

    [It could be that Popes recognize the jurisdiction of the Orthodox bishops over their faithful because they are solicitous that those people should not be deprived of the sacraments. However, the SSPX – which is a priestly fraternity and not some kind of rouge diocese – does not claim jurisdiction over their faithful. The people who frequent their chapels are not deprived of the sacraments in the way that many people in lands dominated by the Orthodox would be. Followers of the SSPX can easily find a priest who has faculties from the proper authority.]

  13. ALL: I’ll let some comments through, but not all, and not right away. There will no satisfying some people and this isn’t going to be a fever swamp.

  14. robtbrown says:

    WesleyD says:
    Charles Journet argued that the Popes, through explicit and/or implicit acts, have supplied the Orthodox Churches with those powers of jurisdiction necessary for the validity of the sacraments of Penance and Confirmation.

    That’s a famous argument, but it’s hard to see hard it jibes with canon law.

  15. Wiktor says:

    So, it would seem that only the bishops of SSPX have faculties (as every other bishop has) unless denied by local ordinary. [Good heavens, NO! They are suspended a divinis. They do NOT have faculties to do anything.] But they cannot give faculties to priests, because they are not ordinary anywhere.
    That would mean at least *some* SSPX absolutions are valid. [When there is danger of death, they are.]

  16. robtbrown says:

    If I might make one point:

    There are two different theories of episcopal orders (cf the Keys):

    1. Acc to the first, potestas ordinis and potestas iurisdictionis are given separately. The first through ordination of any bishop, the second legally by the pope.

    2. Acc to the second, potestas iurisdicitionis is given at ordination, and legally limited by the pope. Rahner–also Cardinal Tettamanzi I think–was a fan of this approach.

    The advantages of the first are obvious. It affirms the universal jurisdiction of the pope and has long tradition, in fact, found in Origen, an Alexandrian Father. And IMHO it also fits in very nicely with the Church as Mystical Body.

    The advantages of the second are that it easily lends itself to the problems of Jurisdiction with Orthodox Churches. And I think it can be said that it would say the absolutions, etc., of the SSPX are only illicit.

    NB: This problem is referenced indirectly in the Nota Praevia Explicativa of Lumen Gentium.

  17. ppb says:

    I have known a few Catholics who have fallen into the trap of frequenting the Orthodox for their sacraments; and interestingly enough, almost all of them were involved with the SSPX first. (It seemed that from the SSPX they absorbed some distorted ideas about what it means to be in union with the Church’s hierarchy. Fortunately, most of them eventually found their way back, sometimes through the Eastern Catholic Churches.) What I tried to tell them was the following: 1) As a Catholic, you can only receive the sacraments from the Orthodox if it is physically or morally impossible for you to receive them from a Catholic priest. Are you really sure that it is physically or morally impossible for you to go to confession with a Catholic priest within driving distance? Really? Every single one of them? 2) The Orthodox faithful in most cases cannot be charged with knowingly and obstinately breaking union with the Supreme Pontiff. You, on the other hand, are a well-educated Catholic subject to the Church’s laws, and cannot claim any ignorance. (Neither can the SSPX, for that matter). If you are obstinate and unrepentant about breaking canon law and turning away from the Catholic diocese, aren’t you essentially withholding a grave sin from your confession, and in that case how could the Orthodox priest’s absolution have any effect?

  18. The Masked Chicken says:

    “That would mean at least *some* SSPX absolutions are valid. [When there is danger of death, they are.]”

    It seems important to re-iterate that, in danger of death, an SSPX priest’s absolution is valid, by Can. 976:

    Can. 976 Even though a priest lacks the faculty to hear confessions, he absolves validly and licitly any penitents whatsoever in danger of death from any censures and sins, even if an approved priest is present.

    It is unlikely to happen, but should a person have to make an emergency confession (from what I gather, under current norms, danger of death does not mean imminent danger of death – for example, someone having quadruple bi-pass surgery in the morning is in danger of death, but not immanent danger of death, which might occur very suddenly during the operation) and the only person available is an SSPX priest, they should not die in anxiety over confessing to him. I suppose, one might distinguish between ordinary faculties and supplied faculties. Any validly ordained priest, laicized or schismatic, is supplied faculties by the Church to absolve in danger of death – faculties for that very specific situation, only. This subject is outside of my knowledge base, so I defer to those more knowledgable, but there are rare cases where even SSPX absolutions are valid, so this is not an all-or-nothing proposition. It is just that the Law is the Law and under that Law, SSPX absolutions are, ordinarily, invalid, but the Church may provide for unusual situations beyond the normal. I suppose, to mock convention, one might call them, under current conditions, (extra)extraordinary ministers of Penance. When TEOTWAWEI happens, they will certainly be able to help out in the confessional, have no doubt (well, okay, it depends on how the comes about – I don’t know if the Church considers zombie attacks being in danger of death).

    One could hope, that by some miracle, their condition could regularized. There are many people dying slow spiritual deaths that could benefit from their zeal.

    The Chicken

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

    [A friend who is an authentic rattle – as Dr. Maturin or Capt. Aubrey would put it – sent via email: “I’m thinking of the “danger of death” situation – and wondering when some wag is going to come up with the plan of having SSPX priests pack heat in the confessional and hold a gun to the head of the penitent while they offer absolution, just to ensure their absolutions are valid!” Respondeo dicendum: Hey! Do everyone a favor, Fathers, and always have your (legally carried and concealed) sidearm with you.]

  19. If Rome doesn’t recognize you, then you are separate from Rome, and not part of the visible Church.

    [Father Z, thanks for trying this subject again. There is always pushback but your clarification is read by many who are open to the explanations. If it weren’t for you, I never would have understood the basis for the SSPX’s lack of faculties.]

    SSPX followers acknowledge that the Pope is the Pope and don’t consider themselves Sede Vacantes, as far as I know. If the SSPX sees that the Pope is the Pope and therefore wields Papal power and authority, then why doesn’t the SSPX also see that Church rulings apply to them? Can’t have it both ways. And didn’t the SSPX refuse Pope Benedict’s entreaties to return to the Church?

    When separated from the Church, it follows that the separated are not going to receive all of Her rewards.

    To clarify what ‘membership’ means [stating the obvious for some], the SSPX is not part of the visible Church because no one in the SSPX reports to Rome/the Pope, as part of the Cardinals, Archbishops, bishops, or even a single priest. They don’t enjoy visit ad limina, they aren’t invited to conclaves or meetings in Rome. SSPX churches are never acknowledged by any diocese – you won’t find SSPX locations listed on a diocesan website. This illustrates that the SSPX is separate from Rome and not recognized by the Church. And of course, if the SSPX was part of the Church, there would have been no effort by Pope Benedict to bring them back in.

    The Orthodox see themselves separate from Rome with this similar scenario, don’t they?

    I do sympathize with the cause of the SSPX and do wish this mess and confusion was fixed once and for all – including shutting down progressives and heretics who have done much worse damage to the Church!

  20. JABV says:

    If having a diocese is about having a flock (not a geographic region), which seems to be tied to the Church as the Body of Christ present in Her members, can the SSPX bishops acquire a diocese by bringing up members in their chapels through all the sacraments of initiation? [No.] (The answer is clearly NO, but I am curious as to what it means to “have a diocese.” This union seems to be clear with man and woman being united in matrimony; what makes a diocese?) [A diocese is an ecclesiastical structure, which can be geographical or person (as in the military dioceses) designated by the Roman Pontiff.]

  21. Ben Kenobi says:

    Ex-Protestant here. Is it painful to come over and submit to the Pope in unity? Yes. Is it absolutely necessary in order to receive the sacraments that one has been denied all his life? Also yes.

    “they consider themselves to be akin to a personal Ordinary”

    Isn’t that just special? I’m sure if they considered themselves to be a jelly doughnut, that would be no different. SSPX claims they aren’t ‘sedevacantists’. Every single one I have spoken to has claimed that at some point the Pope’s moral authority became invalid and that they are no longer obliged to obey and to follow what he says. This is absolutely no different from the protestant who says the same thing. The protestant simply believes in an empty seat because the seat itself means nothing. SSPX sees the seat as empty because the pope means nothing.

  22. LadyMarchmain says:

    I’ve thought about this off and on all day, and I believe part of the reason for the particular mercy extended in allowing Catholics to receive sacraments from Orthodox clergy may perhaps have to do with the political situation in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Catholics in Russia and former Soviet Bloc countries have had a very difficult time, as we know.

    That said, most Orthodox priests will not administer the sacraments to a Catholic without a formal process of conversion and chrismation. Of the vows the convert must make, some require denouncing the Catholic Church and asserting that it is Satanic (I don’t know the exact words, but this has been explained to me by a friend who is an Orthodox priest). This is the whole reason for that hospitality bread we were discussing in the eucharist thread. Probably an Orthodox priest would hear a confession, but the penitent might hear some negative things said about the Catholic Church.

  23. phlogiston says:

    Forget the Orthodox. I find it absurd in the extreme that I could go to confession to Fr Hans Kueng (well, theoretically at least) and validly receive absolution, but I could not do the same with Bishop Fellay. Presumably, bishops generally know about this jurisdictional issue and generally know when the SSPX has a chapel within their diocese. Would it not be prudent, for the sake of the salvation of souls, for them to simply grant jurisdiction to the SSPX priests? Of course that would take away handy club with which to beat the SSPX about the head and shoulders, but would that not be “pastoral?”

  24. Andrew Rivera says:

    How do we define what is an Orthodox Church? Do we limit ourselves to the autocephalous 14 Churches? Under this theory, how are we to regard the jurisdiction of Old Believers, the Old Calendarists, et al.? What about many of these Churches already having parallel Catholic Churches who have restored communion with Rome: does the jurisdiction of the Eastern Catholic Churches similarly flow from an historical fact rather than the living patrimony of the Keys?

  25. robtbrown says:

    LadyMarchmain says:

    I’ve thought about this off and on all day, and I believe part of the reason for the particular mercy extended in allowing Catholics to receive sacraments from Orthodox clergy may perhaps have to do with the political situation in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Catholics in Russia and former Soviet Bloc countries have had a very difficult time, as we know.w

    A few miles from me is a Greek Orthodox church. Can you tell me the source of its jurisdiction?

  26. LadyMarchmain says:

    robtbrown: No, I cannot. Is it part of the Greek Orthodox Church of America? Or is it part of the Russian Orthodox Church in America? Or any other number of possibilities including Old Believers. I feel very stupid about this, because I find this to be one of those legalities that doesn’t really make sense when regarded with eyes of faith. The schism between the eastern and western churches was called “the Great Schism” and there are actual theological differences which make it a very real schism indeed. I understand that the sacraments have been judged valid, and I grant that there was indeed apostolic succession, and that there is jurisdiction supplied by the eparchy. But when I’ve approached Orthodox priests (some of whom are friends of mine, or married to friends of mine), they have indicated (very kindly) that I must cease to be a Roman Catholic in order to receive their sacraments.

    I’ve double checked this today, and there is a separate chrismation ceremony for Roman Catholics converting to Orthodoxy (the Protestants, Jews and Muslims get the same rite, which is different). Roman Catholics must repent of their theological errors and repudiate them.

    So I don’t really see how it’s possible for a Roman Catholic to seek out sacraments in an Eastern Orthodox Church *in good faith* unless in a case of dire necessity, such as existed in the former Soviet Union perhaps.

  27. Andrew Rivera says:

    Fr. Hans Küng, Metropolitan Hilarion, and Bishop Fellay all walk into a bar (well, array of confessional booths), and a recently converted Roman Catholic wants your advice as to whom, from these three and barring other options, ought to hear her confession.

    …is anyone else’s sensus fidei piqued right about now?

  28. LadyMarchmain says:

    Andrew Rivera: Your “priest, rabbi, minister” joke is actually all too real in many a neighborhood, and it’s a question facing many faithful. Since Fr. Hung’s church only posts hours for the Sacrament of Reconciliation for 30 minutes on Saturday afternoon and when the faithful arrive, a sign is posted “No confessions today” or else, no sign, but no sign of Father either; Metropolitan Hilarion, upon understanding you are a Roman Catholic come to confess to him, begins to instruct you in Orthodox theology, and Bishop Fellay, unless taking aim at you with one of Fr Z’s guns through the grille, has no jurisdiction. This result is probably more widespread than we realize. The person in this predicament must remain unconfessed, week after week, month after month, year after year, making earnest acts of contrition, unless they are blessed to find their travels take them to an opportunity for confession. Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison.

  29. This happened in England, history repeats controversy of faculties, as told in an 1884 book called “Confession and Absolution”, by a Right Reverend Monsignor Thomas John Capel D.D.

    The Church of England outlawed confession. Having seen the need for confession, clergymen rebelled and took authority upon themselves
    “…and began to
    hear confession and pronounce absolution. These gentlemen had
    never been prepared for the work: in their course of ecclesi-
    astical studies the hearing of confessions and the absolving from
    sin were never contemplated; they had to obtain their knowl-
    edge from the manuals in use among Catholic priests. Their
    bishops neither would nor could give them authority; and so
    these clergymen became an authority to themselves, and declared
    they had power to forgive sin, merely because they were ordained
    priests. Such a pretension could not be made by any priest or
    bishop of the Catholic Church, however valid may be his orders.
    To the sacramental power of orders must be added juridical
    authority to absolve. This, in the divine economy, as will be
    shown later, is the means whereby the exercise of such a power
    can be duly controlled.”

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