From a reader…
I was wondering if the diocesan ordinary has the authority to forbid the faithful from attending a particular mass. A common example of this would be the masses celebrated by the SSPX. Though the canonical status of the society has been clarified much in recent years, many bishops still say that the faithful cannot attend their masses at all. Thanks in advance.
Bishops have very few checks on them, very little oversight. Rome nearly always rubber-stamps unjust decisions of liberal-minded bishops. Thus, they can get away with a lot. A bishop can try to get people to believe that he has the authority to forbid things through letters that make it seem like he has that authority. A close reading of some restrictive episcopal edicts quickly reveals that bishops are really expressing their personal preferences rather than anything based in law. They sound really official, but in the end, they are suggestions, not legitimate commands.
We have to read “decrees” carefully to find what they really say and don’t say, and then interpret laws that place restrictions as favorably for people as possible.
Let us also remember that bishops can hurt priests in a thousand ways. Priests often don’t want to deal with the fallout that will come from a harsh bishop so they keep their heads down.
Rome has provided that the faithful can to go priests of the SSPX for sacramental confession and be validly absolved. Rome has provided that priests of the SSPX can receive faculties to witness marriages. Rome also explicitly said that the priest can celebrate the Nuptial Mass!
It doesn’t make any sense at all that people can go to these priests for confession and to be married, but then they would have to leave before Mass began. If people can be at a Nuptial Mass, how can it bef wrong for them to be at a regular Mass?
Yes, people can attend Masses at SSPX chapels. They can fulfill their Sunday obligation with such Masses. They can, and should (out of justice – because they’ve received a service), give something in the collection.
If the SSPX priest says stupid things in the pulpit or displays an improper attitude about the Faith or towards people, they should be treated as at any other place, canonically without question or not: people should go elsewhere.
However, in the main, yes, people can go to Masses of the SSPX, especially if the local bishop has been harsh in restricting use the the pre-Conciliar Missal, thus diminishing the opportunties to attend Mass in the Vetus Ordo.
I wouldn’t say that about “independent” chapels or about true sedevacantists.