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Rome Grants SSPX Conditional Faculties to Celebrate Marriage

Under Pope Francis, Rome has moved with surprising haste to take concrete steps to bring the Society of St. Pius X  closer to a regularized canonical situation. While SSPX Masses have always been seen as valid (though of questionable liceity), other sacraments offered by priests of the society which require jurisdiction from the local ordinary — specifically Confession and Holy Matrimony — have remained under the shadow of doubt.  (The Society argues that they have “supplied jurisdiction” under a “state of necessity”.)

In September of 2015, at the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis granted faculties to all priests of the Society to licitly hear confessions for the duration of the Jubilee Year. In 2016, in his apostolic letter Misericordia et Misera, he extended those faculties indefinitely.

Today it has been announced, by way of the release of a 27 March, 2017 letter to bishops and cardinals, a similar privilege has been extended to priests of the society to celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. The letter is signed by Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei (PCED), along with the PCED secretary, Archbishop Guido Pozzo.

The letter in its entirety reads as follows [all emphasis in the original]:

Your Eminence,
Your Excellency,

As you are aware, for some time various meetings and other initiatives have been ongoing in order to bring the Society of St. Pius X into full communion. Recently, the Holy Father decided, for example, to grant all priests of said Society the faculty to validly administer the Sacrament of Penance to the faithful (LetterMisericordia et misera, n.12), such as to ensure the validity and liceity of the Sacrament and allay any concerns on the part of the faithful.

Following the same pastoral outlook which seeks to reassure the conscience of the faithful, despite the objective persistence of the canonical irregularity in which for the time being the Society of St. Pius X finds itself, the Holy Father, following a proposal by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, has decided to authorize Local Ordinaries the possibility to grant faculties for the celebration of marriages of faithful who follow the pastoral activity of the Society, according to the following provisions.

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.

Where the above is not possible, or if there are no priests in the Diocese able to receive the consent of the parties, the Ordinary may grant the necessary faculties to the priest of the Society who is also to celebrate the Holy Mass, reminding him of the duty to forward the relevant documents to the Diocesan Curia as soon as possible.

Certain that in this way any uneasiness of conscience on the part of the faithful who adhere to the Society of St. Pius X as well as any uncertainty regarding the validity of the sacrament of marriage may be alleviated, and at the same time that the process towards full institutional regularization may be facilitated, this Dicastery relies on Your cooperation.

            The Sovereign Pontiff Francis, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei on 24 March 2017, confirmed his approval of the present letter and ordered its publication. 

            Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 27 March 2017.

Gerhard Card. L. Müller

+ Guido Pozzo
Titular Archbishop of Bagnoregio

It would appear that we are now one step closer to a full regularization of the Society. What that will ultimately mean — and the motivations behind these unprecedented efforts to overcome the decades-old stalemate between the Society and the Vatican — remain to be seen.

UPDATE: A question raised by a reader who is a traditional priest prompts me to offer an important distinction on this story: priests of the Society still have to receive the faculty to witness marriages from their local bishop, just like any other priest. As Father noted in his message to me, “Canon law gives pastor an ordinary faculty to witnesses marriages, in their parish and they can grant that to their vicars, but if they go somewhere else, they need to ask. So, if the SSPX does not ask, then the result is going to be the same, that they are invalid, with this important difference: if Rome has opened up this door, then it is much more difficult to argue a state of emergency. I would suggest though, that the title of the article could be clearer because already people have sent me messages saying now all SSPX marriages are valid or will be. That is not the case as I read the letter. They CAN be, but they have to be willing to do what every other priest has to do: receive their faculties from the hierarchy of the Church.”

With this in mind, I have updated the title of this report to include the word “conditional.” As with all stories relating to the SSPX, the devil is in the details and semantic precision is paramount.

See the Vatican Radio report on this story here. This post has been updated.

170 thoughts on “Rome Grants SSPX Conditional Faculties to Celebrate Marriage”

  1. I may be a little off base here so by all means enlighten me. I thought the sacrament of marriage was conferred on each other by the couple themselves, while the priest was celebrant and witness on behalf of the Church.

    • You’re correct. The only thing you’re missing is that for Catholics since the Council of Trent, the sacrament is not conferred unless either a dispensation is granted or the priest from the Church is there to witness.

      • Right. Trent affirmed that the couple is the ministers of the sacrament, but it also wished to forbid “clandestine marriages.” So a priest is necessary to witness it, or give a dispensation in extraordinary cases.

        • Also correct me if I’m wrong, but can’t deacons also witness Catholic marriages? Wouldn’t a diocesan deacon be able to serve as witness while an SSPX priest said the Mass?

          • That is correct – but only when both parties to marriage are Latin Rite Catholics (which will, obviously, be the case nearly all the time).

            If one of the couple is a member of an Eastern Church, a deacon cannot witness the marriage, and a priest is necessary. That was one of the changes issued by Francis in his changes to canon law on marriage late last year.

          • True, but a deacon can only officiate at a wedding in absence of a priest. The SSPX priest is a priest.

          • Are you sure about this? I never heard that deacons must refrain from witnessing marriage if a priest is present. I’m not saying you’re wrong, just asking a question for information. Can you cite a source?

          • The priest ranks higher than a deacon. Priests are the ordinary witnesses of marriages, deacons are only extraordinary witnesses/officiants. Like giving Holy Communion, priests are the ordinary ministers, while the deacon is the true extraordinary minister (not laypersons) and only distributes if necessary. Deacons are extraordinary minsters of Solemn Baptism. Same with priests as extraordinary ministers of Confirmation (on Holy Saturday Easter Vigil with faculties and for an infant at danger of death).

          • I know all this, but it still doesn’t answer the question. Where is it written that deacons must refrain from witnessing a marriage if a priest is in attendance?

          • Johnny, I don’t have anything specific at my fingertips but it has always been understood that if the priest is present he is in charge. As far as marriage officiating is concerned, there are cases where some daughters want their deacon-dads to officiate, and do so without a Mass and the priest is nowhere to be found. The same with deacons baptizing their grandkids. They do so without a priest present.

          • OK, but I know it’s common to have a deacon read the Gospel at Mass while a priest is present. If you find some particular instruction concerning marriages, I’d be interested to see it.

          • Deacons proclaiming the Gospel during Solemn High Mass is a particular duty of the diaconate; it is not a Sacrament.

          • True enough, but the “ministers” at a marriage are the nuptial couple, not the priest; he is merely a witness.

    • Hi CB – Matthew7:15-20 – ” 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will know them by their fruits.” The SSPX needs to remember these Words of Jesus Christ, and be wary of becoming a bad fruit of Francis, in their zeal to seek legitimacy from someone of his sort. Would Archbishop Lefebvre seek any form of concession from Francis? Francis is capable of using others to attain his goals.

      • ++Lefebvre *did* try seeking such concessions from Paul VI, despite being treated horrifically by him, over and over again.

        That said, ++Lefebvre’s position tended to harden over time. It is harder to say what his reaction would have been in, say, 1989. This is a unilateral concession by Rome, it seems; and we also know that the Rota and the Society have quietly worked together on such cases in the past. The sticking point is how this will be exercised on the ground, if the Society is willing to work within it. A bishop who tries to impose difficulties – and frankly anything short of simply an immediate grant of permission for a Society priest to witness the marriage and celebrate the Mass might well count as such – might make the Society balk.

        • Hi Richard – I hope they balk, no matter the offer. If they don’t, I have no doubt that Francis will use the SSPX to legitimize his agenda. Francis must be opposed at every turn. Grafting yourself to his tree will only end in becoming a bad fruit.

          • I grok your position. I really do.

            I’m a “Summorum” trad: I attend diocesan or Ecclesia Dei society Masses and sacraments (there’s not an SSPX chapel near me in any case); as such, I have consistently hoped for a full recognition of the society in a robust canonical structure. Among other things, this will make the Society able to reach many more Catholics (traditionalists included) who are wary of patronizing an “irregular” group, be that fair or not.

            But that said, I *do* worry about the “political cover” a recognition would give to Francis and his agenda. “Hey, how heretical can he be if he’s able to reach a deal with the SSPX, for heaven’s sake?” I am sure that thought has occurred to Francis and his advisers (though I think some of the more hard line ones would still oppose the move even so). It’s a concern. In a more ideal world, we would get a more orthodox pope promptly, and *he* would extend a unilateral recognition.

          • Hi Richard – Perhaps the SSPX has been offered the best deal it will ever get, by Popes who were truly concerned with the disposition of the souls of those who comprise the SSPX. Francis is not among the Popes of that sort, he is definitely without concern for souls in jeopardy of damnation. We must pray for the members of the SSPX as fervently, on Holy Thursday, as we pray for all those who are not in full communion with the Church..

          • I hear you Richard. If the SSPX are eventually given official status owed to them but Francis gets rid of SP, the FSSP, etc. then there’s going to be big problems. I usually attend Mass said by a good diocesan priest and if SP is gone he might not be able to say the TLM, which is a shame. With only 600+ priests the SSPX cannot possibly minister to a tiny fraction of Catholics worldwide. Nothing’s going to improve until the NO is abolished.

          • I am as far from a fan of the present pontiff as it gets, but I also think…it is very unlikely he will revoke Summorum outright, or suppress the FSSP.

            The M.O. if there is one, seems to be more indirect methods. Appointment of bishops not inclined to breathe life into the motu proprio, or grant societies like the FSSP apostolates in their dioceses. Maybe, at the outside, some modest revisions of Summorum, though right now all their firepower seems to be directed to the Novus Ordo translations.

            But we will see. These are certainly difficult times.

  2. The letter does not grant the SSPX priests faculties for marriage. It suggests that a Novus Ordo priest come to the SSPX chapel to celebrate the marriage.

    • That seems to be “Plan A.” Obviously that will be a problematic point for many (most) Society attendees. But it does allow a Plan B, whereby “the Ordinary may grant the necessary faculties to the priest of the Society who is also to celebrate the Holy Mass.”

      If the bishop is willing to cooperate at all (and some won’t), the lived reality of this directive might well be that bishops skip Plan A and go right to B.

      Until then, we must wait to see what Menzingen’s reaction will be. We know they claim supplied jurisdiction; but that does not mean that they might not try to work with this directive in some way.

      • Yes, you’re correct. I cannot imagine any Society attendee opting for Plan A since Novus Ordo orders are doubtful and, at any rate, if one wanted to get married by a Novus Ordo priest, one would presumably just go to the Novus Ordo and wouldn’t be at a Society chapel in the first place.

        I’m interested to the see the SSPX response too.

        • I think the Society default, if they have one at all, would be: Let us handle it all, just to make it simple and frictionless.

          The Society recognizes the validity of the new ordination rite in theory – they are clear about that – but doubt it in practice in certain cases. And even in cases where it does not apply, such as an Ecclesia Dei society priest ordained under the traditional rite, there could be some awkwardness. Imagine bringing in an FSSP priest known for criticisms of the Society to witness a marriage. His orders might be unimpeachable ( to all but a sede), but it would be…an opportunity for friction. I’d say just let the SSPX priest do it all, and send over the paperwork, and be done with it.

          • As a Society parishioner, of course, my hope is that nothing will change. If the local bishop wishes to receive some paperwork, so be it. I don’t see a reason to be rude or unnecessarily aloof. On the other hand, if Novus Ordo priests start showing up at our parish, I’ll be rather concerned!

          • As a Society parishioner, of course, my hope is that nothing will change. If the local bishop wishes to receive some paperwork, so be it.

            I really do think this is the best way to proceed.

          • It might be an occasion of grace for the Novus Ordo priest. Especially if he is treated with respect and kindness and sees the same devotion and humility which I find at my local sspx chapel.

          • I’m a bit prejudiced here, having attended SSPX Masses almost exclusively throughout my adult life. I raised my children there, and attended their weddings with the SSPX pastors. They have never been approached regarding their marriages, and one frequently attends the local novus ordo church. Perhaps somewhere in the world a couple will be affected by these ‘rules’, but since nobody in Rome seems to care if you are even married or ‘cohabiting’ or ‘living irregularly’, who is going to raise a big to-do about couples who have remained ‘married’ and are raising their children in the Faith? It seems almost a non-issue, or else there is an ulterior motive….

          • The problem with this is that it makes the Society’s argument for supplied jurisdiction essentially without weight anymore. As far as I can see, the emergency situation which they claimed as the basis for jurisdiction no longer exists since the jurisdiction is being granted by Rome. I’m no canon lawyer, nor a sacramental theologian, but from what i see… this is all around bad. And I’ve been very supportive of the whole regularization idea from the beginning.

          • It is a funny old world! The Novus Ordo priests that have turned up to the SSPX Mass Centre that I attend have done so in order to learn how to celebrate the Tridentine Rite of Mass. They then go on to offer the Mass as the Indult Mass in their dioceses. I would like to think that if a personal prelature is given to the Society, without traps and unacceptable conditions, then more N.O priests will avail themselves to this indispensable instruction.

          • An FSSP priest would do the whole thing, I think the CDF wants the territorial parish pastor to officiate, which he probably won’t if the does the Novus Ordo.

      • There’s nothing misleading about it. They’ve been given faculties for a sacrament that requires jurisdiction, with the proviso that preference should be given to a diocesan priest.

        • That’s not exactly correct. Yes, there is a preference for a diocesan priest to come to the chapel to witness. Secondarily, there is a provision that the local bishop should consider the granting of faculties to the SSPX priest. But that provision doesn’t grant them faculties. It merely suggests that the local bishop could grant faculties.

          Your headline suggests that the pope has circumvented the local bishop and granted faculties directly, which he hasn’t done.

          • I see your point, but all priests need to get faculties from their bishop. This one is difficult to summarize in a headline.

            I’ve added the word “conditional” to the title and an explanatory note at the bottom. Clearer? I don’t want to confuse anyone.

          • I think that’s a good addition.

            Contrary to the statement of your “traditional priest” commenter, though, the SSPX, of course, believes its marriages to be valid regardless of whether or not the local ordinary is consulted. In fact, the letter itself suggests that SSPX marriages are already valid since (1) it does not state that they aren’t, and (2) it speaks of alleviating uncertainty of conscience. It does not speak about an objective validity or invalidity.

            This is an interesting letter in another way, too. Presumably, if a personal prelature was about to be established, this letter would have bypassed the local ordinary and granted faculties directly. After all, going around uncooperative local bishops is supposed to be major selling point of this prelature offer. This letter, on the contrary, purports to require some involvement with the local bishop to alleviate consciences of those married in Society chapels (although, again, one would imagine that the only people in need of such alleviation would be those who were married by the SSPX but thereafter left since anyone going to the Society has no doubt about this issue).

            In other words, if we are to expect a situation where the local modernist hierarchy must be consulted, then the prelature offer is likely to find limited support.

          • Speaking of consulting with the bishop, I know of one major archdiocese (which I won’t mention by place) that actually requires that all weddings be approved by the chancery, regardless of circumstances. In this archdiocese parish priests aren’t even allowed to book weddings for their own parishioners! They also require a porno Pre-Cana course and retreat…evil.

          • Good point. Will the diocesan bishops try to require SSPX couples to participate in their bizarre pre-Cana courses? It seems very likely they would.

          • That’s why this won’t work. It’s just a scare tactic for SSPX priests/attendees to go to the Novus Ordo.

          • Technically, canon law gives pastors the authority to witness weddings without specific permission from the local ordinary, so that whole rule is simply pointless anyways.

          • That is true, but this archdiocese doesn’t obey Canon Law anyway. To be really simple, all that is required of the priest officiating is that the couple knows the church teaching on matrimony. CL mentions nothing about classes or retreats. Many priests will send couples to a class at Father’s discretion. The diocese isn’t supposed to be directly involved in marriage prep unless there is a red flag (e.g. an interfaith situation).

          • I heavily doubt that the prelature structure, if it happens, will have the same conditions attached to it on matrimony as this decree does. This decree seems to be a halfway house of sorts.

            A personal prelature deal may be a prudent move, or an imprudent one. But I wouldn’t assume that this decree should be taken as representative of how it will work.

    • Which is not practical. Why would a N.O. priest come to an SSPX chapel for 5 mins. to receive vows of a couple he doesn’t know or care for their salvation? Usually the priest who receives the vows says the Nuptial Mass, unless in grave circumstances a deacon has to receive them and a priest can say the Nuptial Mass at later date. No different from weddings performed in countries where religious ceremonies are not legally-binding, and the couple has to also exchange vows before a civil magistrate.

  3. If Che Guavara had instructed you to go down to la biblioteca, take out Moby Dick and follow the instructions on a note to be be found on page 235, would you follow those instructions or build a raft out of banana leaves and start paddling? Point being, I don’t care what this guy is up to, anyone w/a brain should run. I already ran from NO to SSPX & if this demonic imp gets his grubby claws all over SSPX I’ll paddle away again. Don’t care if the Mass is at the danged Holiday Inn. This man is a bad guy.

    • Are you aware that routinely attending SSPX Masses constitutes schism and a mortal sin? SSPX is nothing but a demonic pitfall for those Catholics who are not willing to damn themselves by being liberal hippie reformers. Attend the Tridentine Mass with FSSP or something, because disobedience to the Holy See is demonic, even if a pope abuses their authority. They have the authority, and those who are disobedient (like Lefebvre) will pay the price.

      • If attending SSPX Masses constitutes schism, they why does this letter from the CDF directly state that an SSPX priest could offer the nuptial mass?

        • Probably the same reason Amoris Laetitia, Vatican II, the modern cardinals and pope are full of ambiguous language: because the devil thrives in confusion, and the devil is likely their father. And being nicey-nice with a schismatic group before they have publicly repented is a good way to spread confusion on the status of that group as being foreign to the Catholic Church.

          And your fellow SSPX people in the comments are saying to be worried about rejoining the Catholic Church under Pope Francis because he is an enemy of tradition, rather, I think he would just as soon let SSPX rejoin and not make any moves to supress them, because SSPX at large is a pernicious schism draped in objectively mortal sin, and I think Pope Francis would just let them rejoin as if nothing ever happened and the members of SSPX never sinned.

          But as for authentic, obedient traditionalists in the Catholic Church, it already appears that Pope Francis insults them left and right as being rigid and pharisaical. Believe me, I’ve caught that insult before, but it’s a cross that I will bear as I keep trying to traditionalize our modernism-influenced Church.

          And that’s what makes my righteous anger flare right up, that these otherwise straight-headed traditionalists are so unwilling to help the Catholic Church at large recover from her modernist infiltration, instead going into a faux-pious schismatic little parish where they think they are free to disobey the current leaders of the Catholic Church only because those leaders are whacked. Well that is tosh, piffle, poppycock. It is the office that they hold, not the person that we must obey. And may the Lord strike an evil Church leader dead before he issue an imprudent command. That would be mercy!

          • How are they in schism? Their situation is one of canonical irregularity. But there is no schism. They can validly offer the sacraments, they pray for the pope, they acknowledge the authority of the pope. Bishop Fellay has actually be commissioned by the CDF to be a judge in particular cases of disciplining priests of the Society, they regularly meet with the Pope, pray for him at their masses, and otherwise are in full communion with the Catholic Church. The only question that still exists is, canonically, what IS the SSPX? There was a period of time where you could make a very good argument for schism, but now, that simply isn’t the case.

          • “They can validly offer the sacraments” – this is true. “They offer valid sacraments” – also true.

          • Thank God the CDF, Ecclesia Dei, Pope Francis, and the theologians in discussion with the SSPX, are not singing from your scathing hymn sheet. If it were not for the Society’s authentic Catholic action, Tradition would be all but dead and buried. The SSPX are the voice crying out in the wilderness and their mission is bearing good fruit. They are most assuredly obedient to the perennial teaching of the Church, the Magisterium and the Roman authorities, providing the Church is not being compromised by duplictious teaching. And I would further add, that they are more obedient to Rome then all of the modernist prelates were, under Pope John Paul II and Benedict. So, tosh, piffle, poppycock, still applies.

          • Your lonely position on this subject has now cast you in complete confusion and contradiction. If the SSPX is demonic as you say, under what logic is the Pope to regularize them and pretend they are not demonic? It can’t be, as you imply, that they, like him, are not traditionalists, which they are. Your complaint seems to be they are disobedient because they will not violate authentic tradition, which you laud.

            Scolding those who support the SSPX for not “[obeying] the current leaders of the Catholic Church only because those leaders are whacked” is absurd. Is it your position that we should obey them just because they control the buildings and the purse??

            The Church has been in a state of confusion, disobedience and outright heresy since 1965. All we need do is look at the results. Of course if you were raised int he 70s or 80s the results will mean nothing to you because don’t know what the Church was like before VII. Study, Dominic. Once you know the history of VII, you’ll know the truth and the truth will set you free.

          • How can the Catholic Church “permit”, as some sort of indult, the practicing of the Faith as it was handed down since the Apostles?

            St Paul commands the Faithful to hold fast to tradition. The SSPX have not touched any of the spiritual goods of the Church which have been handed on through the centuries – including the rite of Holy Orders. The Novus Ordo has. Unfortunately, even the FSSP receive priestly ordination (in the traditional rite) from bishops consecrated in the New Rite of Orders invented in 1968 by Paul VI. If it’s not the received and approved rite of Orders, why should one trust it?

            I think I’ve seen you posting your legalistic rants on Louie’s blog under another name. You cower in fear before raw power, even if it has been usurped by evil men, and care nothing for the outward profession of the Faith, which is a non-negotiable requirement, according to Pope Pius XII, to being considered a member of the Church. Shame on you.

          • You don’t even realize that if it weren’t for Marcel Lefebvre, Your indult would never have occurred! Read the history. John Paul passed the Indult the Day after his machiavellian dealing with Lefebvre failed!

          • The Novus revolutionaries never, ever wanted the Traditional Mass and Faith to survive. They didn’t count on any resistance; their modernist heads jammed as far as they were up their bums, they couldn’t foresee that anyone would call them out and resist. They thought that their new religion would be accepted by all, being so superior to the Catholic one they wanted to replace.
            So when the resistance was put up, they cunningly tried to use it to their own advantage by creating their own controlled opposition: The FSSP. It came at a price though, and it was done while smiling faces on both sides did the deed.

          • Technically, the indult was issued in 1984 in Quattuor Abhinc Annos. Ecclesia dei adflicta, issued the day after the consecrations at Econe in 1988, simply reaffirmed the indult, in addition to erecting a canonical structure for groups attached to Catholic tradition (like the FSSP).

        • A lay Catholic attending an SSPX Mass is not schism. Catholics fulfill their Sunday obligation at an SSPX Mass according to canon law.

          • Is that a fact? If I go to an SSPX parish on Sunday morning does that fulfill one’s obligation when I also have the opportunity to attend an NO right up the street? I’m genuinely asking because I am confused.

          • Canon Law 1248 states: “A person who assists at a Mass celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the feast day itself or in the evening of the preceding day satisfies the obligation of participating in the Mass.”

            All that is required to fulfill your Sunday obligation according to Church law, is to attend a valid Mass in a Catholic rite. The SSPX celebrate a valid Mass in a Catholic rite. Therefore, you can fulfill your Sunday obligation at an SSPX chapel.

          • Are you sure the good Lord reads and follows the canon law? Jesus for sure read and understood Torah but reinterpreted it in such a way that his followers drifted away from Old Testamental Judaism. May the good Lord bless and guide us.

          • I intended to put a question: what stands higher: God’s wisdom or Canon Law? In the best case, the first is the source of the second, but not the other way around. We seem to mix both…

          • PCED has not been as consistent as one might like on this question of the Mass obligation (reflecting, obviously, turnover in personnel), but the present line seems to be:”In the strict sense you may fulfill your Sunday obligation by attending a Mass celebrated by a priest of the Society of St. Pius X” – even if they don’t recommend it (2003) But that this is not necessarily true of independent chapels friendly to the Society, which do not fulfill it (2012).

            The Society’s position has always been (of course) that their Masses fulfill the obligation.

          • An independent chapel is generally sedevacantist. Archbishop Lefebvre got the SSPX canonically approved on All Saints Day 1970 in the Diocese of Fribourg, Switzerland. They were approved by two other dioceses shortly afterwards and are considered a work of the Church. So this is why you can attend an SSPX chapel.

          • An independent chapel is generally sedevacantist.

            This is often but not always the case. Think for example of St. Athanasius in McLean, Virginia, which has always been independent of the Society, but also affiliated with it, resorting to Society bishops for its confirmations, etc. Now, of course, it has subsequently gone “Resistance;” but until that point, it seemed to fit into that box of “independent but SSPX affiliated chapels” that CDF/PCED seemed so wary of in that 2012 dubium.

            Whereas otherwise, the PCED’s current position (at least since 2003) is that if it’s actually a Society operated chapel, you can fulfill your Sunday obligation there. (Of course, the Society has always claimed that this is true.)

          • Dangerous assumption there. I have been to many independent chapels that are not only NOT sedevacantist but their priests warn the faithful of the dangers of sedevacantism.

          • I recommend going to the SSPX exclusively once you have considered the current crisis in all its facets. In fact, once you have considered everything, there is nowhere else to go.

          • Confusion comes by not understand the Fruit of a Holy Life. Ignorance is not one of those Fruits, nor is an excess of legalism nor the vast architecture of so-called Catholic chapels. The Truth, the Life and the Way are the envelopes that contain the Catholic Church and it Fruits. One Holy Catholic and Apostolic have been the means of remaining a member of the community of the body of Christ for the past 2000 years.

        • Yes. I noticed that, too.

          It’s like backdoor recognition of an SSPX Mass as licit. But only for Nuptial Masses?

          EDIT: the CDF line does not seem to be that attendance at Society Masses is schismatic per se, but warns again the danger of a schismatic mindset.

        • Attending a Novus Ordo Mass, based on Martin Luther’s Mass, and created precisely to be less offensive to HIS descendants, is offensive to God. Not only is it extremely doubtful that ANY grace is being passed along to you from those Masses, you are also participating in a ritual that is most likely offensive to God. It would be better to pray the rosary than to attend a Noveus Ordo “Mass”. Seriously. When doubt is present, one MUST opt for the old way.

      • Ya know Dom’nic you ain’t too far off the mark with this. We need to start calling a schismatic a schismatic. Don’t know what will come of it but the truth hurts doesn’t it. I’ve got no prestige, reputation, title, or living to lose so I’ll say it. Francis is schismatic. His religion is so far from Catholicism, it doesn’t even look Protestant. It actually looks New Age, Luciferian, Freemasonic. So you stay close to Christ how you will, but for me I will keep far from this man and his religion. If I die w/out the Sacraments then God will know I did my best to receive.

        • That’s quite a cult-like view of Catholicism to say that it is “Francis’s religion”. Francis is in control of the Catholic Church, and he appears to be quite the heretic as he scandalizes people and perverts the *understanding* of Catholic doctrine.

          See, the problem for a heretic pope is that he can never change infallible doctrines or proclaim lies infallibly, yet some SSPX people act as though every word Pope Frank says is infallible and thus proof that the Church of Christ no longer resides in the visible, brick and mortar establishment being run out of the Vatican.

          Well then where on earth is your idea of the Catholic Church? Or have you adopted the idea of an invisible Catholic Church, much like the Protestant schismatics? Where is your leader and ultimate authority on matters of religion? I have a leader, and his name is Pope Francis, and he’s a terrible pope who will probably end up in the lowest chasms of Hell if he doesn’t repent. But he IS the pope of the Roman Catholic Church
          and neither I nor you nor Levebvre have the moral prerogative to disobey his orders unless they are blatantly sinful.

          By the way, you always have your soul to lose, and that’s what could happen if you live by the idea that Pope Frank isn’t in charge of the Roman Catholic Church. It’s a scary reality and heavy cross, but I don’t intend to drop it, jump ship, and become an SSPX schismatic.

          • More nonsense! You really ought to try and understand the meaning of an extra-ordinary canonical jurisdiction in a time of crisis. Canon 1116 -1 allows for an extraordinary form for marriage if it is a serious inconvenience to approach a parish priest. That may include a priest who will only celebrate a Novus Ordo Mass and not the Traditional Mass. For the good of the salvation of souls the Church supplies. Also, I do not know of any SSPX supporters who do not recognise Francis as the Pope. However, being “disobedient” in a time of crisis and confusion does not amount to schism, especially if the true faith is being threatened by the heresy of modernism and liberal Catholicism and the purpose of this said disobedience is to preserve the Traditional Mass and the teaching of the Church. Now you appear to be more superior than the Ecclesia Dei Commission. The Commission has on a number of occasions stated that Catholics who attend the Masses of the SSPX are not in schism and may even contribute a small amount of money. They also state that the SSPX is not in schism; as does the pope. What they warn against is a schismatic mentality. Again, the people that I know who attend the Society Masses do not have a schismatic mentality. They are Catholic through and through. Their only hope is a return to the Tridentine Rite of Mass and the teaching of the Church as handed down by Christ and his Apostles; including, the teaching of all the Popes prior to Vatican II. Anything contained in the documents of Vatican II that are not novel and do not contradict the teaching of previous popes and Councils are not a problem.

            Sadly there are some ex SSPX supporters who simply have an axe to grind and nothing one says contrary to their bombastic opinions will count.

          • Here, here my friend; long live the blessed memory of His Eminence Lord Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, a Holy Catholic Church worthy and a credit to Our Lord Jesus Christ, his Master!

          • I would suggest the possibility that Rome is in schism and the Traditional independents, the Traditional Societies are the true Church. It is not the buildings, it is not the signs, it is not the parish rosters that make one Catholic. It is what one believes. And Rome, considering what it has been allowing, cannot possibly be Catholic anymore. When I left the Novus Ordo 13 years ago, I FLED and will NEVER look back! It is dangerous to us all.

          • You’re becoming a source of entertainment now, Dominic. (What’s with the apostrophe in the middle of your name? Rebellion ?)

            I always get a kick out of people like you, who are opposed by everyone else in the conversation, yet insist they are the only one with the truth, It’s hilarious.

          • Do public heretics remain members of the Catholic Church, which St Thomas calls “the Congregation of the Faithful?”

            A lot rides on the answer to that question.

          • Who are these “public heretics”? If believing in heresy is a requirement for being labeled a “public heretic”, then Traditionals are quite safe. However, the mainstream churches would be in jeopardy, including Rome.

          • 1. A public heretic is someone who claims to be Catholic but outwardly professes something that denies or contradicts something that is taught by the Church.

            2. Yes, I agree!

          • You don’t know the difference, canonically, between the sedes and the SSPX (whose excommunications were lifted. Study a bit more; maybe you’ll “get it” someday!

          • Lefebvre was struggling under just that- ‘blatantly sinful orders.’ Read a little on him, watch the documentary. I think you’ll change your tune on this very holy man, and the decision he finally felt he had to make to preserve the Faith in a time of great crisis.

          • Just a note: Dom’nic: Your Sure your soul is not lost? Doubt that you will find the answer. But the doubt that you soul may in fact be lost, should make you reconsider that you have little if any assurance that what you preach is TRUTH!

      • If the SSPX is “schismatic”, then they’re the only “schismatics” who pray for Pope Francis at every Mass, Rosary, Benediction etc.

        In the 1990s, then-Cardinal Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI), ruled that SSPX masses fulfill your Sunday obligation and absolved the faithful (the Hawaii Six) of the charge of schism.

        These might help you:

        Specifically this one:

        Also, NO prelate should abuse his authority (see Gal. 2: 11-14 et
        seq as Steve wrote in the above article).

      • That is the curse of Vatican II; that an order of priests who shun the heresies of VII and hold to the centuries old traditions and disciplines of the Church are demonic and you and the rest of the NO lemmings are saints. No sale, Dominic. It was Bugnini and the rest of the VII bishops who were ‘disobedient’ to Christ. Archbishop Lefebvre will be a saint one day. He could read and he knew the modernist sentiments in some of the VII documents were serious deviations from the dogmatic teachings of prior Popes and Councils. Either you have not read those documents or you don’t understand what you read. Time to catch up.

        • St Marcel: you can see the saintliness in his very face. Clear – eyed and noble lines all the way – a great saint! Because he had the rare virtue of COURAGE and UNLIKE schismatics, swore allegiance to “Eternal Rome.” Read his Oath of Allegiance to Eternal Rome!

      • Our Lady of La Salette warned us that in “those times” the Church will be in eclipse. In other words, it is entirely possible that the visible church is not the Church at all. And it is entirely possible also that no one sees or knows of the true Catholic Church…it has already gone underground. All of this talk of technicalities concerning obedience and disobedience……….we are not obliged to obey when to obey damages the Faith or puts our salvation in jeopardy. THAT is what the Church teaches. We CANNOT attend a protestant Novus Ordo “Mass”. We CANNOT accept the statement that “elements of sanctification are also found in the separated churches”. We CANNOT accept Ratzinger saying that, for the Jews, the Old Testament is still in effect. The Pope, more than anyone else in the world, is bound by the Faith. He must obey and if he does not, we have an OBLIGATION to publicly admonish him. After all, admonishing one who is in error is a one of the spiritual acts of mercy. When we say that we “obey the Pope” it is meant that we obey them all. And Francis is bound by the teaching of those who came before him. He has no authority over the Faith itself and cannot make changes to it. FSSP is a Vatican stooge, luring people away from where the true Faith is found. It is not simply about the Mass. Anything connected with Rome has the stench of hell anymore and the smoke that Pope Paul VI warned about has enveloped current Rome.

  4. I can appreciate this as a step forward (assuming one wants full regularization, which I am not sure of for myself, and which argument is not in question here, anyway.) I’m just not sure why the Holy See feels the need to split the difference, and entrust the marriage to a Diocesan priest (preferably), with the Nuptial Mass going to the SSPX, unless it is simply to salve the !!!! sensibilities of NO ordinaries who might object. It might under that guise be a wise move. I remember similar !!!! from ordinaries when Pope Benedict freed the old Mass. But overall it leaves a taste of still “second class” status of the SSPX to me, and more importantly a strange two-tiering of vital sacraments. I need far more consideration of the subtleties before I’ll be wholly sure what I think of this step.

    • It’s a false bill of goods, Julia. It also calls for a messy wedding day. Why would you have two priests (1 in cope and another in chasuble waiting for the cue) officiate both separate parts of the wedding?

      Either way, where I live any Latin Mass attendee is a second-class citizen.

      • I don’t disagree, Chris. And I feel for your status with the Latin Mass. I think Steve’s clarifying post at the end of the original article is very helpful, and bears a salient and important phrase from the priest who contacted him: “…..if Rome has opened up this door, then it is much more difficult to argue a state of emergency.” Seems to me a profound consideration as this moves forward. God bless the good priests and leadership of the SSPX as they discern.

      • My wife and I had a Novus Ordo wedding Mass and we had one priest witness the vows while another actually offered the Mass.

      • The smart course of action will be to skip the first option and simply let the SSPX priest witness the marriage.

    • “…unless it is simply to salve the !!!! sensibilities of NO ordinaries who might object.”

      That was certainly a factor – I can guarantee you that.

  5. I see what I see, hear what I hear and read what I read. During these times be very careful and extra vigilant when it comes to dealing with Francis’ Vatican.

  6. With bishops being more than happy to issue dispensation of form so that Catholics can be married by protestant “ministers”. Any denial of the request to have the SSPX priest the sole celebrant (which the letter also allows for) could only be seen as malice toward a group of faithful.

    On the other hand this could be an opportunity to introduce some diocesan priests to tradition.

    • A good bishop would not grant dispensations for Catholics to marry non-Catholics at all costs. For the same good reasons why Catholics always married Catholics, and Catholics should only date Catholics.

      • In most situations I agree with you. However my wife was not Catholic while we were dating. She was received into the Church a couple of months before we were married. There are some exceptions to this rule. We’re now both traditional Catholics and she’s one of the holiest people I know.

      • Agreed. For my brother, said dispensation was one of his last steps as he waltzed right out of the church. I still feel like it was a way for him tell our family, “Shut up and show up to the wedding! The Church says everything is cool.”

    • Very interesting, thank you for posting.

      The last clause of the last sentence in the document gives me pause—-

      “The priests of the Society of Saint Pius X will strive faithfully, as they have done since their ordination, to prepare future spouses for marriage according to the unchangeable doctrine of Christ about the unity and indissolubility of this union (cf. Mt 19:6), before receiving the parties’ consent in the traditional rite of the Holy Church.”

      It’s written as reflexive to actions of the SSPX priests, and suggests THEY will receive the parties’ sacramental consent, and in the Traditional rite. But if it is a “regular” diocesan priest receiving the vows….how could this be?

      On my first reading it came across to me as a bit of a “resistance” statement. A bit of code, perhaps.

      Or, perhaps I’m just too used to reading between the lines in this wacky Church of ours.

      Thoughts welcomed. 🙂

      • The SSPX priest celebrates the liturgy. The diocene priest is in attendance. Since the SSPX is celebrating the rite, he can say he receives the consent. The diocene priest just witnesses and sign the papers. Also, they will probably make more use of the second option. Apply to the bishop for the faculties themselves without needing the diocene witness of the first option.

      • Hello Julia, I think you see very clearly. The final clause of that final sentence leaves no room for any other interpretation.The SSPX responded very amicably, but very firmly, that they will proceed as they always have — without the intermediary “regularized” priest accepting the couples’ consent. I have just a couple of thoughts:

        (1) IF the Personal Prelature is imminent, why would this be necessary? Either it’s not imminent OR Cardinal Muller is stirring up unnecessary trouble. What I mean by that is (a) Bishop Fellay, if he had been notified of this letter to the Bishops of the world (dated, I think, March 27th) he had not informed the Society priests of this as of yet. Which means he was probably consulting with his Council and District Superiors. OR (and I doubt this) (b) Bishop Fellay had been blindsided by the announcement. Either way, the public announcement by the Vatican placed him in a position of having to respond immediately — and maintain the status quo.

        (2) The Society has always operated under the principle of supplied jurisdiction because of an existing State of Necessity throughout the Church. To agree to this proposed arrangement, it would be tantamount to them effectively eliminating the notion of the State of Necessity and compromise their own long held stated theological position (which would leave them without a leg to stand on going forward).

        (3) The penultimate clause of that final sentence might easily be interpreted as a slap at “Amoris Latitia.”

        I had another thought — but I lost it. If I think of it, I’ll post.

        • Nowhere in the last sentence does it give the impression that they will continue as they have. There is the second option of applying for faculties directly. After getting faculties from the bishop, they will receive the couple’s consent through the rite that they celebrate. The last sentence does not exclude them getting faculties through option 2 and even option 1.

          • Yes, the last sentence doesn’t reject their asking for faculties from the bishop. It presupposes that they have asked and been granted faculties, and all it says is that they continue to administer the Mass and rite. Which is true. They will continue to receive the couple’s consent. Now with jurisdiction from the bishop.

          • I think you’re wrong, and here’s why: the SSPX (I know this from conversations with SSPX priests) have made as one of their uncompromising conditions for accepting the Prelature that they can continue exactly as before. This would be a change which would undermine the principle — and, after speaking with a couple of SSPX priests today, they proferred the interpretation that I gave above (and they have spoken with other Society priests as well).

          • In the preceding sentence before the last sentence, they write that they hope that the bishops share in the Pope’s solicitude. This means they will comply and ask for faculties. Right after this sentence about the bishops, comes the last sentence about receiving couple’s consent.

          • This means they will comply and ask for faculties.

            I think too little is said to feel certain of that.

            I wouldn’t rule it out, but I would not assume it, either.

            I think Fellay might make a good faith effort to follow up on it. But it will be difficult for him to have the Society embrace if it turns out it means any significant changes from how the Society operates with regards to matrimony now – I mean, aside from sending copies of the paperwork to the local chancery.

  7. Uh oh……Francis is tossing a bone to traditional Catholics.

    Some really bad stuff must be about to come down the tubes.

  8. The more this goes on, the more I’m convinced that this whole “play nice with the SSPX” game is simply to destroy their argument for supplied jurisdiction. The more they need to give in to the local ordinary, the less free they are, and the more they come under the heel of the modernists. I was really hopeful at first, but now, this is bad news.

    • The cynic in me sees this as nothing more than Francis/Bergoglio engaging in his typical Machiavellian tactics of doing something that on the surface appears to be an outreach to traditionalists, but in reality does nothing more than sow even more confusion and discord among the online traditionalist community. Instead of uniting, we trads form circular firing squad after firing squad; meanwhile, Francis/Bergoglio is free to carry on his merry way.

    • The issue concerning supplied jurisdiction has always been contested by Conciliar authorities. If Rome is pulling a fast one and trying to deceive the Society then supplied jurisdiction will still apply because the crisis will remain. And, Rome will continue to contest it and say, we did everything we could to help the SSPX. Which of course, means that they didn’t. The important consideration for the Society is about control. If they are able to control their hierarchy, property and assets then the Roman Hierarchy can do little to hurt them. There is no way the Society bishops are going to hand over control to Rome or the diocesan bishops.

      The Society have thanked Pope Francis. They are, as usual, demonstrating filial respect and faithfulness towards the Seat of Peter; no matter who the pope is.

      “The Society of Saint Pius X conveys its deep gratitude to the Holy Father for his pastoral solicitude as expressed in the letter from the Ecclesia Dei Commission, for the purpose of alleviating “any uncertainty regarding the validity of the sacrament of marriage”. Pope Francis clearly wishes that, as in the matter of confessions, all the faithful who want to marry in the presence of a priest of the Society of Saint Pius X can do so without any worries about the validity of the sacrament. It is to be hoped that all the bishops share this same pastoral solicitude”

      • I’m glad you mentioned ‘property and assets’. I had read some time ago that that were actually what the Vatican were after. I hope not. I hope this is a sincere outreach to unite us.

        • For all the impressive size of the Society, its global assets likely don’t amount to more than that of one good sized archdiocese. That’s not nothing, but it’s hardly going to be a game changer to a Holy See which operates a bank that manages €5.9bn in funds, and holds real property worth much, much more than that (to say nothing of major national churches, like those in Germany and the U.S.).

          I’m not saying that the Society and its lay followers shouldn’t be careful in protecting their hard-won properties. But I strongly suspect that whatever nefarious agendas might be at work in this development, getting hands on SSPX properties is a distinctly secondary or even tertiary one, just as was the case with the much smaller and much more modestly endowed FFI – which had the hammer dropped on them for being a non-Ecclesia Dei religious order that dared to publicly question aspects of the Second Vatican Council through its publishing arm.

    • I agree with you, Jafin. Bergoglio has proven over and over again he cannot be trusted. I pray the Society gets the picture right away and tells Bergoglio, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’

  9. Why the need for a diocesan priest to be present? I smell, wrongly perhaps, a large rodent. Would any final Agreement with the Society include the provision (building on this marriage arrangement) that every SSPX parish has an “attending” Novus Ordo priest to keep an eye on things?

    • If memory serves, in the Latin Church it is the free consent of the bride and groom that “confects” the sacrament. The priest is only a witness.

      However, in the Byzantine Tradition (Catholic and non-Catholic), the *blessing of the priest* is necessary for the validity of the marriage as well as the free consent of the bride and groom.

    • “Would any final Agreement with the Society include the provision (building on this marriage arrangement) that every SSPX parish has an “attending” Novus Ordo priest to keep an eye on things?”

      Actually, I strongly doubt it. I think this is a provisional measure. I can’t imagine Bishop Fellay agreeing to such a thing in a deal. I can’t see him getting most of his clergy on board with such a requirement in such a deal.

      A canonical deal with this pope might be a bad idea. But I would be reluctant to read much into the provisions of how this decree handles the procedures of matrimony.

    • Don’t worry, I don’t think many N.O. diocesan priests will do it anyway. Supplied jurisdiction applies to all Trad. Catholics, not just the SSPX. Speaking with the theme that the parish pastor is supposed to officiate, your parish is actually supposed to be where you live, not where you attend Mass. Practically every Trad. Catholic who attends the TLM fulfills their Sunday obligation via supplied jurisdiction (unless you are lucky enough to live in a regular parish that’s traditional). The Church cannot force you to go to the N.O., so you have to go where the unreformed sacraments are, or stay home. In the case of marriages if you happen to go to a parish with an “indult” mentality and the priest refuses to marry you and your sweetheart, provided both the bride’s and groom’s parishes won’t allow a TLM wedding, you have to go to the closest place which can do it. Since state laws also must be followed, if one party lives out of state and the other cannot marry there because of a residency requirement, then it might be possible for an SSPX priest to rent space, set up a temporary altar, and say Mass at a neutral site. (I’m sure it’s happened before.) The FSSP won’t do this since they work directly for the bishop.

      But in the N.O. people also still don’t always attend their neighborhood parishes since bishops have not enforced parish boundaries in quite some time.

  10. The Society of Saint Pius X conveys its deep gratitude to the Holy Father for his pastoral solicitude as expressed in the letter from the Ecclesia Dei Commission, for the purpose of alleviating any uncertainty regarding the validity of the sacrament of marriage. Pope Francis clearly wishes that, as in the matter of confessions, all the faithful who want to marry in the presence of a priest of the Society of Saint Pius X can do so without any worries about the validity of the sacrament. It is to be hoped that all the bishops share this same pastoral solicitude.

    -Excerpt from the Communiqué from the General House about the letter from the Ecclesia Dei Commission concerning marriages of the faithful of the Society of Saint Pius X (April 4, 2017)

    • This is a very carefully worded response from the Society – and a little more diplomatic than what has usually obtained previously. It’s as noteworthy for what it does NOT say as what it does. There is no reference to “supplied jurisdiction,” for example.

  11. Regarding the statement that SSPX weddings have been considered valid: A marriage involving one or two Catholics, witnessed by a priest lacking delegation from the local pastor, is NOT normally presumed to be valid. Just the opposite.

    Everything ultimately hinges on the validity of Abp. Lefebvre’s assertion of necessity. Various agencies in the Vatican HAVE treated SSPX marriages as valid.

  12. Permit me to speak plainly, even though I studied theology at Oxford: If His Eminence Lord Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre ultimately did not trust dealing with the Vatican under Bergoglio’s predecessors, I do not believe he would trust Bergoglio as far as one can pitch his shoe and therefore without an IRONCLAD guarantee of complete sui generis independent selection of superiors and all ordinaries, then there’s no way he’d come one inch closer to an antipope (because of the violation of Universi Dominici Gregis) run Bergychurch.

  13. When I first learned of this story two days ago, I read it from a large Catholic news source (NCR). The fact that a Catholic affirmation is needed for a SSPX priest to perform a valid marriage was very clearly laid out in the article. This explains the reason all the well-known Catholic media sources had titles like, “Pope Francis builds a bridge to SSPX marriages,” or “Pope Francis Paves a Path to SSPX marriages,” etc. The only thing that surprises me about your article is that you didn’t know about that, and you wrote your article without knowing all the facts, and only learned the facts after a traditional priest informed you, when all along the information was common knowledge.

    I think this step toward unity is a positive one. However, you seem to be digging for negativity to cast on this story, evidenced by your warning shot, “What that will ultimately mean — and the motivations behind these unprecedented efforts to overcome the decades-old stalemate between the Society and the Vatican — remain to be seen.”

    Is it possible to be so biased against Pope Francis that you can’t see the good in… the good?

    • You’re not only snarky. . . .you’re out of your depth in this discussion.

      And you first read it on Fishwrap. . . .do you troll for a living?

  14. Hmm, looks like he’s trying to play nice with the St. Pius X Society in order to win over the Traditionalists (to cover the balant liberal /heretical “Amoris Latitia”?) while at the same time finding ways to strange the Traditional practise of the Faith. Insidious.

  15. SSPX needs no permission to operate from anyone. Given the current state of the “Church”, why would SSPX even want to be in communion with Rome? Rome is in serious error! Rome should be following SSPX back to the Faith. In the end though, I believe the only true Catholic priests left will be the independents. Rome will eventually find a way to quash all Traditional religious orders and persecute those that participate in their parishes. We will be driven back into the catacombs….literally………but only for a while.


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