ASK FATHER: What is the status of SSPX weddings when the local bishop denies permission, delegation?

From a reader…


I am from a town where the SSPX has recently established a vibrant chapel and has been extremely generous in providing Traditional Latin Mass and other Sacraments in the traditional rite. The local diocesan parish  has also provided daily TLM but can no longer provide Traditional weddings. Recently there were a couple of weddings that took place at the SSPX chapel for which the local diocesan bishop had refused the necessary “permission”. The (diocesan) parish has announced that these couples’ marriage are of doubtful validity and that those who knowingly attended the wedding should go to Confession before approaching for Holy Communion.

Would you clarify what the canonical status of SSPX weddings (specifically those with denied permissions) is?  Also is it true that attendance at such a wedding constitutes a sin?  Thank you for all that you do those of us living in these confusing times.

Such unnecessary nonsense. For cryin’ out loud!  Just give the SSPX priest delegation already!  What are these bishops so afraid of?  Why are they so spiritually stingy?

Alas, from the point of view of the current Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church, without that delegation, these weddings are invalid.   For the sake of proper form, there has to be a officiating witness to the exchange of vows with proper jurisdiction (such as a pastor in his parish) or delegation of that jurisdiction (such as a visiting priest who comes to do the wedding).  SSPX chapels are not parishes and their priests are not pastors with jurisdiction to witness marriages.  Francis opened this up and made it possible for local bishops to give delegation to SSPX priests for weddings are their chapels.  Most US bishops have done this, I think, and they also have a priest who acts as a kind of liaison in these matters.  Some bishops are rather more narrow-minded and cold-hearted when it comes to the desire of people to tie the knot with the Traditional Rite, probably in the chapel where they grew up.  But why have a pastorally sensitive heart toward these people?  Right?  They are only the most marginalized and now purposely persecuted group in the entire Church.

On another point, I’m not sure why/how the priest at the parish determined that “knowingly attending” these weddings is mortally sinful. First, if the parish needs to inform people, then they did not “knowingly attend” and therefore they did not fulfill one of the portions of committing a mortal sin, that is, knowledge that the act is mortally sinful. Secondly, there’s no prohibition in Canon Law that prohibits the faithful from attending invalid weddings.

Thirdly, while there might be an issue of scandal, to maintain that every scandalous act is mortally sinful would shock even the most hardened Jansenist.

That said, going to confession is certainly a salubrious act.


Here’s a thought.  I recommend that everyone who attended these weddings go to confession.  Get organized and go together.  Go to confession, one after another, to the priest who, sua sponte, declared attendance at these weddings to be mortally sinful. It would be interesting to see his reaction as he walked into the church to hear confessions (assuming he does at all) and saw a hundred people already lined up, and have them, one after another, confess:

“Bless me Father. I attended a lovely wedding for which the cowardly and stingy bishop refused to give his permission.”

Even better would be lining up to go to confession to the bishop himself.


I should in fairness add this.

When in 2017 the Holy See made it possible for SSPX priests to receive delegation for marriages, there was not a word about invalidity of previous SSPX marriages.   It wasn’t said that the previous SSPX marriages needed any sort of fixing up such as a convalidation.  Convalidation of a marriage is done to remedy some defect in what happened, such as lack of proper form.  In the case of the SSPX priests, they didn’t have jurisdiction or delegated jurisdiction.   You would think that if there was concern that all those previous SSPX marriages were considered by the Holy See to be invalid, some statement to that effect would have been made.  Since 2013 things have been done in canonically strange ways.  For example, the SSPX priests can hear confessions and validly absolve.  But there was never a document explicitly stating that: it was suddenly … was.  This provision was followed up with an indefinite extension for Confession in the 2016 Misericordia et misera, which does call it a “faculty.”

The 2017 Letter: HERE

What is also clear, is that Rome is SILENT on the issue of the SSPX’s arguments regarding the SSPX having “supplied jurisdiction,” etc.

The Church DID NOT say the 2017 Letter was issued because any invalidity of all previous marriages witnessed by the SSPX priests.

What the Letter DOES say is that the Letter was issued, much like the one in 2015 for the Catholic faithful to be able to receive valid absolution from SSPX priests (“such as to ensure the validity and liceity of the Sacrament [of PENANCE] and allay any concerns on the part of the faithful”), “(f)ollowing the same pastoral outlook [for WEDDINGS, as for CONFESSION] which seeks to reassure the conscience of the faithful…” so that “any uncertainty regarding the validity of the sacrament of marriage may be alleviated.”


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. moon1234 says:

    Which then begs the question, is a cardinal the only prelate who can marry in the traditional form now without needing permission of the local ordinary?

    Would the couple in question need to repeat their wedding vows in front of say a priest of the FSSP or ICRSS? What if the couple travels out of their home diocese to be married due to the impossibility of being married in their home diocese?

    I ask because my wife and I traveled out of state to be married at an oratory of the ICRSS. At the time we could not find a priest willing (or knowledgable enough) to offer us a TLM wedding. I assume all needed permissions were obtained and we received a marriage certificate from the oratory. I assume the oratory doesn’t need to ask permission of the local bishop since they are presumed to already have permission?

    So what is a couple to do in the current circumstances where they desire:

    TLM :
    – Wedding
    – Confirmation
    – Baptism
    – Funeral
    – Extreme Unction

    Or any of the traditional rituals vs the “book of blessings”.

    Is the only recourse to the FSSP or ICRSS? I assume anyone can baptize, but what is the penalty for baptizing your children yourself vs being forced to be done using the new ritual in front of the entire church and it treated like a birthday party with the ensuing clapping and focus on the “event”.

  2. timothyturtle says:

    How bad do things have to get before we accept the SSPX claim that their faculties and supplied by the ongoing crisis in the church?

  3. TonyO says:

    Yes: even in Francis’s cruel TC and the Vatican Roach’s punitive rescript, they did nothing to say bishops cannot (or should not) grant that permission. So the bishops should be granting it generously, in virtually every case where it is asked. The mere fact that some couple is asking for permission (instead of proceeding without bothering) is clear and strong evidence that they want to do the right thing and are seeking to stay faithful to the Church. How can the bishop not be willing to meet them halfway? The permission granted doesn’t somehow “use up” some storehouse of good that the bishop must conserve for a rainy day!

    Secondly, there’s no prohibition in Canon Law that prohibits the faithful from attending invalid weddings.

    Granted that this is true, would it be possible that perhaps the best man and maid of honor, by attempting to be the formally required witnesses to a wedding-that-isn’t, are morally speaking formal cooperators in the defective act, and need confession? (Along with the pincipal actors, the bride and groom, I guess.)

  4. Gaetano says:

    I’m struggling with the reasons why, when faced with the decision between granting permission one is authorized to grant and Catholics having invalid weddings, a bishop would go with the latter option.

    Yet that’s where we are

  5. iamlucky13 says:

    While I don’t want to overlook the wisdom of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI regarding why they were reluctant to grant faculties to SSPX priests to witness at marriages, in this situation those faculties are now available.

    Pope Francis is obviously not a proponent of the causes of the SSPX, yet clearly he prioritized ensuring the validity of marriages over and above emphasizing the authority of Vatican II when he approved the directive for bishops to be generous in delegating priests to witness marriages at SSPX nuptial Masses:

    “Insofar as possible, the Local Ordinary is to grant the delegation to assist at the marriage to a priest of the Diocese (or in any event, to a fully regular priest), such that the priest may receive the consent of the parties during the marriage rite, followed, in keeping with the liturgy of the Vetus ordo, by the celebration of Mass, which may be celebrated by a priest of the Society.”

    Nor should it be an issue if no diocesan priest is available to handle the delegation, as the next paragraph approves SSPX priests to be delegated in that situation.

    I feel I should maintain the benefit of doubt for the bishop that perhaps either the SSPX priest or the couple was unwilling to properly request permission from the bishop, or cooperate with a delegated priest. However, that conflicts with the situation the questioner seems to be describing.

    Otherwise, it sounds rather like the bishop prefers for invalid marriages to seemingly take place rather than given an inch to the SSPX, even to the point of ignoring the clear instructions from Rome.

    I wonder also if the mentioned priest has counseled those who knowingly attended other invalid weddings, such as those involving civilly divorced Catholics, that they are guilty of mortal sin. The scandal of doing so certainly is of concern, but I’m unaware of general moral guidance that it is typically mortal.

  6. WVC says:

    This is a big problem in my diocese where the “good” bishop refuses to allow traditional marriages or to give jurisdiction for traditional marriages. He also refuses to give permission for anyone to receive traditional Confirmation in another diocese from a bishop who is less stingy and cold hearted and obsessed with licking Vatican boots in the name of “unity and fidelity.”

    I can’t explain how much good will my bishop has trashed. Even if all of this ended tomorrow (God willing) and TC was rescinded and everything was allowed to flourish, I wouldn’t give the bishop the time of day nor donate a red penny to anything in any way attached to him, his name, or his intentions. We offered him numerous gifts, spiritual bouquets, and earnest good wishes since he arrived, and he repaid us with scorn and disdain. He has made it clear that the spiritual life of my family means practically nothing in his eyes.

  7. Danteewoo says:

    My five children were confirmed in the nearby Ukrainian Eastern Rite parish in 1988. Was that a Canon Law violation? Not that I care now.

  8. Hidden One says:

    Is there any Rotal jurisprudence regarding the validity of SSPX marriages done before 2017? Or anything else of that sort?

  9. oldCatholigirl says:

    Isn’t there a distinction between illicit and invalid? So a couple could be validly married, and thereby not committing sin by co-habiting, even if their compliance with Church law is unclear?

  10. Dave H says:

    Archdiocese of Indianapolis has rejected all requests by the SSPX chapel there. The Society priests there continue to make the request for each marriage. The Indy Archdiocese has also stated that marriages at the chapel were/are invalid and the bishop wrote in an email that he believes the SSPX priests are in schism (although the laity attending mass at the Society chapel are not).

    So, question for Fr Z: is schism a state or a censure/punishment? Certainly a heretic might falsely say “I’m not a heretic” but can someone who says “I’m not in schism and I accept the primacy of the Pope and I pray for him in the mass” be kept in perpetual punishment for schism?

  11. TonyO says:

    He also refuses to give permission for anyone to receive traditional Confirmation in another diocese from a bishop who is less stingy

    Well, I don’t know all the rules, but I was not aware that the bishop of that other diocese had to “get permission” to do a confirmation. I don’t believe that confirmation has been made subject to a set of constraining rules similar the case of matrimony.

  12. Hilda says:

    “The Church DID NOT say the 2017 Letter was issued because any invalidity of all previous marriages witnessed by the SSPX priests.”

    Was it needed to say so as the Roman Rota had already established in many past sentences the invalidity of such weddings ?
    This being said we have to remember that after the French revolution all invalid marriages witnessed by a “prêtre constitutionnel” were declared convalidated in a single shot.

  13. Closettraddy says:

    Another thing going on in our diocese is that the bishop (after granting permission) has rescinded permission for weddings in the extraordinary form only days before they are to occur, thus forcing the couple into novus ordo vows and Mass. This is treachery.

  14. GHP says:

    OOooohhhhh … Father said Sua Sponte!!

    “The 75th Ranger Regiment (United States Army Rangers) uses Sua Sponte as their regimental motto, referring to the Rangers’ ability to accomplish tasks with little to no prompting and to recognize that a Ranger volunteers three times: for the U.S. Army, Airborne School, and service in the 75th Ranger Regiment.”

    — Guy
    Ranger Class 1480

  15. WVC says:

    @Closettraddy – I’ve tried to write a comment in response to your comment, but I’ve had to delete it 3 times. What I want to say is not appropriate for this forum.

  16. Fr. Theodoxos says:

    Peace. I don’t read the blog everyday (for shame!) but I happened to be researching another question on marriage. I’m not a canonist but does not Can. 1116 run against the idea that the marriages would be invalid? I’ll hang up and listen.

  17. tmc2001 says:

    I’m still confused, are those marriages that are performed at SSPX chapels without the delegation of the local ordinary valid, legitimate, and licit ? Or some other combination of the three.
    I do live in a diocese where the bishop refuses to give the local SSPX priests delegation to perform marriages, this is because we also have an FSSP parish in the same city. Because if this my bishop says that the marriages performed at my local SSPX chapel are not valid.
    Are we not allowed to have more that one church that will provide the sacraments in the traditional form ?
    Are those couples married at the SSPX chapel living in sin ??

  18. StrongRock says:

    Hi Fr. Z, could you elaborate on your answer to the second question. You say that it might be scandalous to attend such a wedding. Under what conditions? How would one discern this?

    I chose not to attend such a wedding. My reasoning was that when you attend a wedding you are implicitly saying that you support this event at least on some level. You attend weddings to celebrate something, no? If an otherwise practicing Catholic is having an invalid marriage, then what is there to celebrate? Was I wrong? Perhaps you could clarify.

  19. makreitzer says:

    Iamlucky13 wrote:

    “I feel I should maintain the benefit of doubt for the bishop that perhaps either the SSPX priest or the couple was unwilling to properly request permission from the bishop, or cooperate with a delegated priest.”

    I’m in the diocese of Arlington and am registered at a diocesan parish, but mostly attend the SSPX chapel where the marriages took place. The bishop allowed a TLM nuptual Mass in one of the parishes a few months ago, but when another couple whom I know requested one, they were denied. They were working with a diocesan priest who felt sure they would receive permission, but they didn’t. I spoke to the couple. They went through all the necessary protocols. It appears that the bishop has decided not to allow any more Traditional marriages in the diocese. There is a large Latin Mass community in the Shenandoah Valley and the local parish offers the TLM (but not in the parish church). None of the other sacraments are allowed in the traditional form. It’s a very sad and has divided the community, damaged friendships, and even divided families. I keep asking how this is facilitating the salvation of souls which is the primary goal of the Church? It obviously isn’t. The SSPX priests encourage us to maintain and attitude of charity. They are good and faithful servants of Christ!

  20. If you are confused…. If you want clarifications… If you want to know why people have to even ask these questions… ASK YOUR BISHOPS.

  21. TonyO says:

    It appears that the bishop has decided not to allow any more Traditional marriages in the diocese.

    And thus the bishop shows his real colors. When he first came to the diocese, and for a couple years after, many people thought he was anywhere from OK to good. But his harshness in implementing TC, and this action of being difficult about weddings for no good reason, shows that his heart is against the TLM. [The PEOPLE who want the TLM. Inevitably, it’s about the people.] He could have implemented TC without the harsh decisions he made, and he could still allow all of these TLM weddings when properly requested. (Indeed, he could have decided to “implement” TC by doing what every good bishop should be doing: teaching the TLM to all of his priests and SHOW them the difference between the TLM mass and the NO mass, so that they too could be good teachers, who in turn could offer TLM masses to their parishes and show the people the differences. All in the spirit of “explaining the NO, of course”.) I suppose that the Vatican could have assigned this TLM-hater to that diocese to drive it into the ground (or underground).

  22. Imrahil says:

    Was it needed to say so as the Roman Rota had already established in many past sentences the invalidity of such weddings ?

    I don’t know that. But if she has, well, that’s the opinion of the Rota. The Rota is not the dogmatizing Pope; her opinion need not necessarily be true. Also, by the rules of canon and continental law (and contrary, if I am rightly informed, to Anglo-Saxon law), her decisions even canonically have only relevance to the case decided. (The rule of “stare decisis” does not exist on the Continent. There is a separate Pontifical Council For The Interpretation Of Legislative Texts.)

    For my part, I think the “supplied jurisdiction argument” brought forth at the time by them was pretty convincing (though such jurisdiction even if it exists is precarious and better replaced by a better one); especially, though this argument is less than canonical, where weddings are concerned: the sacrament is given by the spouses to each other after all, and the part of the priest in the sacrament itself is only that of a-witness-the-absence-of-whom-makes-it-invalid-because-of-positive-law (he does give the nuptial blessing afterwards, but that is a separate sacramental).

  23. WVC says:

    The only answer my bishop has given is a chortling non sequitur about “unity and fidelity.” He didn’t respond to my letter. He certainly wouldn’t take my call. And He hasn’t dared to actually visit or talk with any of the people he has intentionally marginalized. And I’m afraid if I tried to ambush him at a public event the temptation to act very uncharitably would greatly exceed my self control. I know of some who HAVE asked him these types of questions when he was at a public event, and he turned and walked away without giving an answer.

    And there are priests in his Chancery of whom, before now, I held a very high opinion. But they have just kept silent and don’t dare do a thing to rock the boat. It’s infuriating.

  24. WVC says:

    Something that I do wonder about – why are so many willing to carry water for the evil men forcing evil decisions? I just read that the banishing of the TLM on the Steubenville campus was a direct order from Roche as part of his “deal” to allow the dispensation at St. Peter’s. Why didn’t the bishop say this in his public statement? Why doesn’t he publicly point the finger directly at the culprit? I heard rumors to the same tune about why the bishop decreed what he decreed in my diocese – but the bishop didn’t publicly dime out Francis or Roche. He just chortled around and ignored questions.

    Likewise, why aren’t priests pointing directly at their bishop and saying – “He is doing evil and trying to restrict the faithful’s access to the sacraments”? Instead, they, mostly, keep their mouths shut and earn reputations as “company men.”

    I understand the inclination to not air dirty laundry in public or to throw one’s superior under the bus – it’s generally bad form. But in a catastrophic abuse of power leading to utterly illicit actions being taken to directly contradict the core mission of the Church – how is it not better to cast light on the evil machinations and not be an accessory to the wicked by covering for their shameful deeds?

  25. Imrahil says:

    (And in any case, Rome and the SSPX have been talking since the glorious lifting of the excommunications, with the typically Pope-Francis-like, but fine, solution of 2016 as sort of a result. The topic of the talks were doctrinal issues, not jurisdictional ones; and through all that time Rome fully well knew that they witnessed marriages, ordained, heard Confessions and so forth and has not demanded: “Stop, that’s invalid.” At any rate Rome has not done so publicly, which would have been the necessary thing. Hence, if they had not had supplied jurisdiction before, in my view they got it then by tacit grant as it were.)

  26. Chaswjd says:

    Let me see if I understand the current situation. After having gone to an SSPX wedding we are to confess because the wedding would be invalid as the celebrating priest lacked faculties. Simultaneously, Pope Francis has given SSPX priests faculties to hear confession. So, in theory, the entire wedding party and all the guests could immediately after the ceremony go to the very SSPX priest who celebrated the wedding and confess the sin of having attended or participated in the wedding. Father could give absolution, assuming that the rest of the confession was good, because, in his mind, there would have been absolutely sin in having attended the wedding in the first place. Do I have things correct?

    Another fascinating question would be whether persons baptized by an SSPX priest are bound by the canonical forms of marriage. If the SSPX is truly in schism, then it is arguable that the persons baptized there are not “baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it”, a precondition for being subject to canon law. I would assume in that case, the marriage of two SSPX members would be a valid marriage and there would be no more sin in attending such a ceremony than there would be in attending an Orthodox wedding. But I could be wrong on this.

  27. Chaswjd says:

    One more thought. Assuming that a SSPX marriage is invalid, it would appear that there are some bishops who would rather have souls in their care commit the sin of fornication than grant faculties to a SSPX priest to marry them.

  28. Hilda says:

    Reference about Roman rota sentences on the subject :
    One, among many, but one with all legal arguments is :
    coram de Angelis, dated 8th of July 2009, P.N. 19.789.
    Could be found, but perhaps only in latin, at your local diocesan tribunal.

    Such sentence is not an “opinion” of the Rota but a judgement in accordance with the existing canonic laws. Of course if canonic laws about Trent canonic form is one day changed, then jugements will be different. But this is not the case up to now.

  29. Uxixu says:

    Observing the laws of the Church was formally a precept until it would appear Paul VI in Matrimonia Mixta removed the anathema in the US from the 3rd Plenary Council of Baltimore for attempted remarriage or marrying before a secular official where not required that were if anything reinforced by the 1917 CIC. Neither of those should apply to the SSPX, of course, but is never apparently mentioned as a precept after this.

  30. Uxixu says:

    The 1988 protocol signed by Abp. Lefebvre did include a clause:

    2. Sanatio in radice, at least ad cautelam (as a precaution), of the marriages already celebrated by the priests of the Society without the required delegation

  31. timothyturtle says:

    Still waiting. Imrahil said he found the “supplied jurisdiction argument persuasive “.
    It’s based on a claim that there is a crisis in the church. So what does everyone think? A pope that is suppressing the TLM. Bishops denying sacraments to the faithful. Cardinals and bishops advocating for affirming same sex acts. Etc etc. if this is not a crisis exactly where would you draw the line?
    Please respond!

  32. TonyO says:


    I always thought that the kind of “crisis” that applies is the kind of crisis in which it is not possible to get the sacraments validly and licitly (and “licitly” could be from troubles with civil law, not just Church practice, cf England after Henry broke from Rome and declared war). You can set aside the niceties of canonical form when you can’t get the sacraments if required to follow canonical form.

    I strongly sympathize with someone who can’t stand going to mass at his local parish because Fr. Trying-to-be-McButterpants is irreverent and sings horribly and has dumb music and can’t give a sermon to save his life, and for these reasons goes to the TLM, (besides the reasons of just wanting a better mass as such). Is that the same thing as “can’t get the sacraments”? When (for example) the NO parish 2 stops over, 20 minutes drive, is actually quite decent? I know, there are tons of levels of in-between that are prudential matters: for example, what about the priest whose sermons often skirt the edges of, if not outright heresy, at least offensive-to-pious-ears, and you have kids listening? (Or if they really are heretical…one time in 20?) What if a truly decent parish is too far away for anything but once-in-a-great-while, and the SSPX is around the corner? I can’t say I know the answers.

  33. Imrahil says:

    Imrahil said he found the “supplied jurisdiction argument persuasive “.
    It’s based on a claim that there is a crisis in the church.

    No, it is not. They claim that the crisis in the Church is the reason why they fiddle, as it were, their jurisdiction in such a precarious why, but not why the precarious way of fiddling jurisdiction exists in the first place.

    This actual meat of the argument however is the threefold argument:
    1. If people err about priests having jurisdiction, the Church supplies jurisdiction.
    2. The same is true if, while the people are wellinformed and so happen to know the priests do not actually have jurisdiction, still the situation is objectively such a one in which people are wont to presume jurisdiction (the “formal error”, and in my view the pièce de resistance here).
    3. On top of that, it is, granted in extreme circumstances only, but at least in some, even morally legit to create situations of such errors; it is not exceptionlessly sinful.

    I’d not have said no. 3 on my own, it’s not natural to a German (we perhaps have to bear in mind that the SSPX is, so to say, of French nationality), but in a treatise I have read they quoted some authorities on that. No. 1 and also 2 is obvious canon law, and the idea that a priest putting a violet stole on and sitting in a Confessional is a formal error of his having jurisdiction, and the like, seems obvious.

  34. JamesM says:


    Pope Francis has granted the SSPX universal faculties to hear confessions. If someone is in schism they are outside the church. If they are outside the Church the pope can’t grant them faculties. Ergo the SSPX cannot be in schism. (They might be “canonically irregular” but I’m not qualified to explain what that means)

    The Archbishop of Indianapolis appears to be rejecting the lawful authority of Pope Francis. This raises a question, is the Archbishop of Indianapolis in schism?

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