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New Apostolic Letter: SSPX Confession Faculties Extended Indefinitely

The new Apostolic Letter, Misericordia et Misera, has just been released. In it,  Pope Francis reflects upon his Jubilee Year of Mercy, and extends some of the principle provisions he made therein.

First, he extended the mission and work of the “Missionaries of Mercy”, commissioned for the Jubilee Year.

Second, he has stated an indefinite extension of faculties for every priest to grant absolution for the sin of abortion:

[L]est any obstacle arise between the request for reconciliation and God’s forgiveness, I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion.  The provision I had made in this regard, limited to the duration of the Extraordinary Holy Year, is hereby extended, notwithstanding anything to the contrary.  I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life.  In the same way, however, I can and must state that there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father.  May every priest, therefore, be a guide, support and comfort to penitents on this journey of special reconciliation.

Finally, it was speculated that the letter would have something to say about the Society of St. Pius X; it did:

For the Jubilee Year I had also granted that those faithful who, for various reasons, attend churches officiated by the priests of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X, can validly and licitly receive the sacramental absolution of their sins. For the pastoral benefit of these faithful, and trusting in the good will of their priests to strive with God’s help for the recovery of full communion in the Catholic Church, I have personally decided to extend this faculty beyond the Jubilee Year, until further provisions are made, lest anyone ever be deprived of the sacramental sign of reconciliation through the Church’s pardon.

We had reported that Vatican watcher Giuseppe Nardi indicated a belief that this document would regularize the Society, but that the most we could confirm was some mention of the SSPX in an unknown context.

The indefinite extension of faculties to hear confessions was always the most likely outcome of such a mention, but the phrases, “trusting in the good will of their priests to strive with God’s help for the recovery of full communion in the Catholic Church” and “until further provisions are made” seem significant as regards the progress of discussions and Francis’ own expectations of success. The latter statement makes it sound as though it is only a matter of time before such “provisions” will be a reality.

Time will tell.

If you’d like to read the letter in its entirety, you may do so here. (Document link)

76 thoughts on “New Apostolic Letter: SSPX Confession Faculties Extended Indefinitely”

    • Who isn’t tired of the muddled confusion over the Church’s relationship with the SSPX? More of the same BS, not excommunicated or in Schism (though both had been pronounced by the Church previously) yet not in full communion with the Church either…What the heck is that? Are the SSPX a visible sign that confirms the teaching of Limbo?

        • He is a beacon of light in all this confusion and I know him. Great priest. Great homilies. God bless him and keep him safe.

      • But Fr., it can all be explained by that great invention of the ecumeniacs: “real but partial communion”.They are just extending their Kumbayyahhhh catholicism toward the SSPX.

      • Dear Father,

        You’re right about faithful Catholics being “tired of the muddled confusion over the Church’s relationship with the SSPX”. However, Hilary has a point too.

        The Pope has indefinitely extended faculties to the SSPX to hear confessions, which to the untrained eye, can be seen in the following light (this is my own imagination):

        “The Holy Father has been very patient with you (I.e. the SSPX). If you’re really Catholic, [yes, they are!] then prove it by submitting to the Holy Father. Are you more Catholic than the Pope? For crying out loud, he even gave you faculties to hear confessions! What ingratitude! [Gratitude is due to God FIRST.]

        In sum, the extension of faculties to the SSPX may not be an act of rectifying an injustice, let alone an act of charity. It could also be used to neutralize the SSPX opposition to AL and by extension, the novelties of the past 3: years (that’s the.most charitable way I can put it).

        As I’ve posted previously, the SSPX needs to be VERY CAREFUL in dealing with Rome. I can’t read Hilary’s mind, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she suspected something too.

  1. I don’t understand the whole granting faculties to absolve people of the sin of abortion. When has there ever been special faculties to absolve a particular sin when a penitent comes to confession? Is he trying to highlight the fact that, yes, you can be absolved or is he mistaken?

    • Successfully procuring an abortion automatically excommunicates someone under canon law. In the CIC 1983, only bishops have the authority to lift the excommunication, except in places where the bishops have delegated that authority to individual confessors, like in the U.S. This letter extends that authority to priests of the whole Church whose bishops have not yet given priests that license.

      • The sin of perjury was also a retained sin, i.e. a bishop had to be approached to have it absolved or retained. It was also a very grave matter in a civl court as it contradicted the vow taken on the Bible to tell the truth & nothing but the truth. Whlle still using the Bible before the commencement of court proceedings, perjury is a common fault here in Spain & goes unpunished, as lawyers say everyone lies. Of course, those that do aren’t the ones to be confessing the fact.

    • It’s not just a question of being absolved. Abortion carries with it both a grave sin AND an excommunication. A priest can lift the weight of the sin, but not the excommunication, at least without explicit faculties to do so.

      • But the formal status of being excommunicated for the sin of abortion cannot possibly be widely known amongst the faithful! I thought excommunication meant you were denied access to all the sacraments. Most people would assume that forgiveness in confession clears the way for Holy Communion.

      • And it is important to note that if the woman herself did not personally kill her child then her sin is abortion but she has not committed a crime according to Canon Law. Abortionists commit the crime of abortion. So it appears (from the site of Ed Peeters Canonist) that women who undergo abortion by an abortionist, have committed the sin and can be absolved but therefore are not excommunicated. Abortionists are always excommunicated. The above conversation development was very confusing to me.

    • There are some very grave sins that, according to the Canon Law of the Catholic Church, cause excommunication “latae sententia”, that is, as an automatic consequence of that sin. These grave sins can only be absolved by a bishop or a “Penitentiary Priest” to whom this authority is granted by the bishop. Some of these very grave sins are: 1. abortion; 2. schism; 3. heresy; 4. apostasy. You can find maybe some videos about this (I learned this from a video in Spanish).

    • “[T]his puts paid to…”? Could you explain this phrase? Do you mean “puts a ‘PAID’ stamp on,” as in “closes out the matter”?

        • I’m from Western New York and had lived in NYC for some years and in the Carolinas for 16 years. I’d never heard that turn of phrase. May I ask where you’re from?

          • Thanks, Margaret. [Sorry, TGS! I figured I was missing something “in translation.” I have a friend from Norwich now living in London. Fifty years on, I’m still learning that we speak the same language differently!]

          • George Bernard Shaw once said that England and America
            are the only two countries divided by a common language. 😉

          • I played rugby for the University but not against Oxford so did not win a Blue. Some sports have full Blue status, other minor sports a half-Blue. But Blues are only awarded if you play in the annual match against Oxford. Full Blue sports are rugby, cricket, football, field hockey, boxing, tennis.

  2. “”The example of Christ’s mercy toward the woman caught in adultery is “an icon of what we have celebrated during the Holy Year,” the Pope stated. “Mercy cannot become a mere parenthesis in the life of the Church; it constitutes her very existence, through which the profound truths of the Gospel are made manifest and tangible.”

    One wonders if Pope Francis is even aware of how the story of the woman caught in adultery ends? One wonders if he has ever read in scripture: Go and sin no more… Gradualism in the moral life isn’t a legitimate practice and yet that is exactly what PF and crew promote on a constant basis.

    Furthermore, statements like “Mercy cannot become a mere parenthesis in the life of the Church…” are enough to make me want to do many not good things. Who the heck speaks like that other than a Jesuit? How does this kind of rhetorical blather help anyone? When has mercy EVER been a parenthesis in the life of the Church?! Does Pope Francis actually believe that the Church is somehow more merciful, and according to his reasoning, therefore more the Church than ever since he became Pope? It seems so…ugh. Furthermore, mercy does not constitute the very nature of the Church. The great commission isn’t go out to all of the Nations and be merciful, its actually to proselytize them: to make disciples of all Nations, baptizing them! and teaching them to OBSERVE everything Jesus Commanded: including what He teaches about Marriage.

    Furthermore, when Jesus gave the power to forgive sins He also gave the power to BIND them: Justice is just as much a part of the life of the Church as is Mercy.

    Please O Lord deliver us for souls are being lost in the tempest. Amen

    • Indeed. That’s why this false mercy is so diabolical since it approves the wolf of sin under the sheep’s clothing of mercy. Only the devil is so clever and he inspires his minions. Itching ears just love it.

    • Father, in this specific instance where the Holy Father has granted this power to forgive sins to SSPX regarding abortion, I think this is a good. Yet, he does speak of mercy as if he and like minded people have the truest understanding of it, which I wholeheartedly disagree. As if he and others are the only ones that understand the true difficulty of refraining from sin. As if all the tradition of the church has been removed from the reality of real life struggle. Then we hear the talk of things being too difficult to abide by. Difficult? Yes, something the church has always taught. Impossible? Not if we have God as our provider. We should never find a reason to stop fighting the good fight. By simply saying something is too difficult is to say we no longer strive for perfection and, more importantly, we no longer place faith in the saving power of Christ given any situation. And what I am saying isn’t new, it’s church teaching that has always been

        • Father, I became serious about my faith approx 4 years ago. I was born in 87. All of a sudden I took it seriously. Then I came to realize I wasn’t properly catechized. But I had an innate desire for history and philosophy and this desire awoke me to the trueness of the Faith. But I am quite angry for all those who aren’t being properly catechized as many will have a hard time understanding the spiritual struggle in which we live. When I hear the Holy Father speak and when I hear like minded bishops and Cardinals speak I am, frankly, embarrassed as I see the poorly formed theology which they have attached themselves to. And I am only 4 years into the faith! Yet I have long known that the Christian love and mercy is not how the world defines it. But they preach the world’s definition. This isn’t just a debate about theology but a fight as to what concepts we are applying to which words. Yes, this struggle even effects our language.

          • Of course you are confused, that is the reality with what is going on with the SSPX and Rome: Confusion. Nothing like a little postmodern clarity to leave everyone confused. If they are not excommunicated nor are they in schism, yet neither are they in full communion then they are…? ? ?

            If they were excommunicated or in Schism then it would definitely be a mortal sin to be attached to an SSPX Chapel, however since they are not then I don’t see how it could be considered a mortal sin to attend their Masses regularly or infrequently at one of their Chapels.

            Furthermore, would the SSPX be validly absolving their members of attending Mass in their own Chapels? That is absurd at best, and yet given how absurd things are it wouldn’t surprise me to discover some fool in Rome arguing for that.

            This situation is absolutely absurd and is damaging to the faithful. Confusion in any part of the Life of the Church is not the work of the Holy Spirit.

          • Boy this is pure nonsense. If he lets them do confession then they are really valid when doing the consecration because both are in the persona of Christ. This is demonic the confusion. . I don’t even know any of these people, I do know Sedenvacantism is in a state of mortal sin, and they keep coming on this site to cause more confusion. Satan is very busy in the church. Godhelp us!

          • The 1983 Code of Canon Law in Can. 1248 states that a Catholic fulfills his Sunday obligation when he attends a Mass in a Catholic rite. The SSPX celebrate a valid Catholic Latin rite Mass. Therefore according to Church law, you have fulfilled your Sunday obligation if you go to an SSPX chapel.

          • Actually, the problem lies in seemingly the underhand, “dans la foulée” way all this is done: if the Pope want to regularise the SSPX, he should follow established procedures. Here is an interesting take from Roberto di Mattei, commenting on this permission:
            “At this point it is not understood why an agreement is necessary
            between Rome and the Fraternity founded by Monsignor Lefebvre, seeing as the position of these priests is de facto regularized and that the doctrinal problems up for discussion – for the Pope – as is well-known – are of little interest.” (Roberto de Mattei, Contradictions at the closing of the Jubilee (22/11/2016) –

    • Please God the 4 Cardinals will not delay the next step so we can bring the chaos to an end because it encourages people to draw back and to contemplate an “anonymous Catholic” position answerable to no one.

    • “When has mercy EVER been a parenthesis in the life of the Church?”
      You must have realised that Pope Francis is determined to tear down all the rules of the Church, which he finds “too rigid” and not in keeping with the current mainly Western or Western-driven mentality of let’s have no more moral rules.
      This is why he never has a kind words for the priests: too rigid, lacking mercy, turning the confessional into a torture chamber.
      As a laywoman, I am particularly appalled by this accusation, as I have never come across a priest who was not kindness itself in the confessional. The only valid reproach would in fact be that some priests are too lenient and sometimes not sufficiently firm.

      On the last day of the Mercy Year, he visited some defrocked priests and again took aim at their former brothers for being nasty to them. He assumes they were nasty, because in his mind all priest are always and everywhere are nasty and uncaring. Rigid. Obsessed with rules. Heartless.
      In my opinion, this constant attack of the priests, demeaning and undermining the clergy at every turn, is the surest way of destroying the Church.

  3. Well for once i can’t find any fault with the texts so far extracted here.

    I think it is great that he wants to make confession readily available as much as possible in particular to those who have procured abortion and are now repentant.

    That this is also the reason for extending the permission given to SSPX priests is wonderful.

    • I don’t see why not. How can their Cardinal supporters not pressurise PF to answer the Dubia – an official CC document? They would lose all credibility if they didn’t.

        • Did he ever have credibility? In any case, we must await the next step in the fraternal correction. It might be that he would step down rather than answer it, but time will tell.

        • Francis believes that he has already answered. His many comments over the past week about those who see only black and white etc., are his answer. This style – letting things go out in public but never actually putting anything definite in writing – is classic Modernism.

          Didn’t Forte say, with a smile and a smirk, that Francis wanted to allow Holy Communion for adulterers but he knew what a kerfuffle there would be if he just ruled on it – he said something to the effect that the Synod would bring it all into discussion, and then he would go ahead and do what he wanted.

    • Bishop Fellay has not shown, to my knowledge, all that much concern about the heresy in Amoris Laetitia. He issued a statement about AL on June 6th of this year in which he qualified AL as being confusing and ambiguous, but nothing about it containing heresy. Kind of a wimpy statement, IMO. Archbishop Lefebvre would no doubt have been more forthright and bold in his assessment of AL. I don’t think that AL will be an impediment to the SSPX reconciliation, unfortunately.

      The SSPX has always insisted that they have supplied jurisdiction to hear confessions. It’s not the same thing as a territorial jurisdiction. They do not have a territorial jurisdiction, but they don’t need to in order for the sacrament to be valid.

      • They must have permissions from the local ordinary (Bishop) to exercise any faculty. I am from Kansas City, MO. The SSPX definitely have no Bishop’s approval to operate there, but they do so anyway. It’s like that all over. ?That just seems to be their methodology. For the many years I was a Catholic there, one of their pastors kept on writing awful articles against Bishops. I pray things will somehow change, but this past May, apparently not for one of them preaching at Grandma’s funeral. Sad, so very sad. God help us.

        • As I mentioned in my previous post, the SSPX rely on supplied jurisdiction to exercise any faculty. They believe (and rightfully so, IMO) there exists a grave crisis in the Church today, and that they must resist the detrimental innovations which have been implemented since the Council. Thus, they believe that they are doing the right thing in exercising facilities when the faithful ask for them, due to a great crisis.

          Archbishop Lefebvre believed that the Church has been occupied by a Modernist Sect since the Council, and as such, the Conciliar church has it’s own dogmas, its own liturgy. Bishop Tissier de Mallerais wrote a very good piece about this, in which he said that the Conciliar church is like a parasite in that it feeds off its host (the host being the true Catholic church). There is a bit of transfer of real Catholic substance from host to parasite, which is why there are still some elements of the Catholic faith in the Conciliar church. But make no mistake – the situation is very grave, and that’s why the SSPX believe that they must maintain the traditional sacraments until the Church comes to its senses and embraces tradition again, which may not happen our lifetime. Or at least that’s what the SSPX believed until recently. Bishop Fellay is moving away from the stance of Archbishop Lefebvre.

          It’s a bit complicated if you don’t know the history of the SSPX. Still, God has allowed this all to happen, presumably, by his permissive will, so even as we point out the grave errors, we must try to remain charitable too.

  4. Thanks for the update and a sense of relief that SSPX was not put in a position to have to respond to the Pope. It could have been awkward.

    • They could simply have said (maybe did) they would accept regularisation if his answers to the Dubia were in line with the Deposit of Faith, Magisterium & Tradition of the CC.

    • It’s one thing to give faculties for absolution on his own own initiative, without any previous negotiation.

      But any deal for regularization can’t be handled that way. It would have to be hammered out and agreed to beforehand.

      Of course, he could extend the faculties to all sacraments on his own initiative. I’m sure the SSPX would not mind, regardless of the fact that they claim supplied jurisdiction anyway.

  5. “[L]est any obstacle arise between the request for reconciliation and God’s forgiveness, I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion. ”

    I thought priests already had the authority to forgive those poor souls who procured abortions.

  6. “[U]ntil further provisions are made” is certainly the pregnant phrase here.

    Of course, there’s no time limit on that. And the Society has been negotiating on and off in the current phase of contacts with Rome for 16 years now.

    • As far as I can see, Bishop Fellay is waiting until the offer comes through; this is less about negotiation and more letting the Pope drop the Vatican II issues. I don’t think the SSPX will end up giving any ground before Francis recognises them.

  7. While this is good news for those attached to the SSPX or have access to SSPX chapels/priests for Confession, there is a very sinister aspect to this too. Namely, that this act of the pope, while being generous and I am sure is well-intended, rides rough-shod through Canon Law. He has not set out any legal basis for this permission other than that it is his will to grant it.

    On the one hand I am pleased for the SSPX priests and their faithful, but on the other, this is no way to run the Church: arbitrary papal will being set above and contrary to Canon Law. It reinforces the same tyranny which is oppressing faithful Catholics and tearing the Church apart.

    • This is why it is necessary for the silent supporters of the SSPX within the Curia to show their faces. If the Dubia is successful we get to have another pope, hopefully a Traditional one this time, when the SSPX & other Traditional Orders would be fully regularised without unwarranted strings attached. If they don’t, it will reflect badly on the SSPX who will continue to feel the heat as long as ‘progressives’ are in office & may even damage their reputation among sympathetic Catholics. The Dubia needs to be supported by everyone.

      • I believe that SSPX wants things THEIR way. On their own terms. All their demands met. It seems all dialogue is initiated by the Vatican. It’s been truly a sad situation since 1988. I am not a part of their group; unfortunately my Grandmother was. Her funeral this past May at one of their “chapels” was truly heartbreaking. While it’s nice that their confessions are finally valid, (a relief), I wonder, do they appreciate that gesture? I pray so. But for a valid Tridentine Mass, find a FSSP-order staffed Catholic Church.

        • Masses of the SSPX are valid.
          Additionally, the SSPX is present in many places around the world where neither the FSSP nor any other “regular” group offering the traditional mass is present.

    • Canon Law is subject to the Pope, and not the other way around. By publishing this apostolic letter, the Pope has modified canon law with respect to the SSPX.

      “the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power.” — LG 22


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