Vatican issues letter on SSPX marriages

Vatican issues letter on SSPX marriages

Catholic World News – April 04, 2017
With the approval of Pope Francis, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei has issued a letter to bishops on the marriages of Catholics who seek to exchange their vows in churches of the Society of St. Pius X, founded by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

The Pontifical Commission’s president is Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, who also serves as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Its secretary is Archbishop Guido Pozzo.

For a marriage to be valid, the parties must exchange their consent before a priest or deacon who has been delegated to do so by the bishop. Noting that Pope Francis has granted “all priests of said Society the faculty to validly administer the Sacrament of Penance to the faithful,” Cardinal Müller and Archbishop Pozzo wrote:

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 Pontifical Commission concluded.

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12 comments on “Vatican issues letter on SSPX marriages

  1. More double-speak from the Vatican! Wasn’t Francis the one who said that “a great majority” of Catholic sacramental marriages are invalid anyway? And that those “in irregular unions” (i.e. ‘shacking up’) are “truly” married? What’s the end game? Holy Father, respectfully, will you defend Christian marriage as it has been perennially understood, or not? Not just a few cardinals would like to know to assuage the uneasiness of conscience!

  2. I dont see how it changes anything. A diocesan priest must do the marriage, according to what it reads.

    • Yes, but in the eyes of the Church, it grants liceity to the nuptial Mass offered by the SSPX priest (which has “value” for it but little or none for the Society).

      Also, the first part of the phrase “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” is open to broad interpretation (as is usual for such canonical concessions); that is, it not is limited to a narrow objection of the physical impossibility of the availability of such a priest but could be interpreted to include the conscientious objection of the couple to a specific priest or to such a procedure.

      For example, in a mixed marriage, the Church allows for dispensation from the Catholic form of marriage (i.e., in a Catholic church or chapel and conducted by a priest or deacon) if the non-Catholic party objects to that. Also, some dioceses are now dispensing from the requirement that the wedding take place in a Catholic church or chapel (but not from that of the presence and role of a priest or deacon) if the couple wish to have their marriage on the beach or in the wild). One may not agree with such practices, but they are examples and may acts as precedents for exemption from that part of the new policy.

      I will let the canonists parse that.

  3. I will limit myself to asking whether my recollection is correct that the Society always provides, as a matter of course, the local NO ordinaries with proper documentation concerning all the Sacraments provided wherein records are kept?

  4. IMO this letter is an attempt to get around the fact that the Holy See knows the SSPX have valid faculties via ecclesia supplet but cannot explain why they do not as yet have the canonical jurisdiction, placins them under the authority of diocesan bishops who are manifestly outside the Church’s 2,000 yr old magisterium. The Holy See is fond of saying that it’s the fault of the SSPX that this confusion exists but if you believe that there’s a bridge over the Hudson you may be interested in purchasing. Satan just loves to sew confusion and chaos.

  5. From the context given above,in the wording ” consent of the parties” I see it as referring to the consent of their desire being married, not as to who performs the wedding vow rite. Maybe I am wrong. We will see as time goes by how this works out….maybe the vows may or will be done in the future perhaps, by a priestess? deaconess? Eucharistic Mistress of an extraordinary kind? ..at the request of a NO Catholic spouse in a mixed SSPX/NO wedding?…
    Next year’s synod on the priesthood will shed more light.

  6. In reality though, this text doesn’t change anything for the SSPX or for the diocesan authorities.

  7. What a waste of time dwelling on this and other SSPX issues – the arguments are puerile as to SSPX status -v- the Vatican. The Vatican for years has followed a policy of near heresy and probably now downright heresy. I live in a diocese with one Sunday TLM [plus one SSPX located in an odd location] three now two isolated weekday single TLM. The bishop, a sharply dressed lawyer-type, seeks to close 20 churches, but appears unwilling to allow Traditional Orders, Eastern Orders or even Ordinariate to step in, as with adjacent diocese. Of course SSPX taking one will be anathema. I have in mind one church which would make an ideal mosque and is the right location for such I wait with trepidation. the outcome. On the present trajectory there will be a lay led church and we get worked-up about SSPX faculties?

  8. SSPX welcomes Vatican letter on marriages

    Catholic World News – April 05, 2017

    The Society of St. Pius X, founded by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, welcomed a Vatican letter encouraging the world’s bishops to facilitate the validity of marriages of Catholics who seek to exchange their vows in the Society’s chapels.

    For a marriage to be valid, the parties must exchange their consent before a priest or deacon who has been delegated to do so by the bishop. With the approval of Pope Francis, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei strongly encouraged bishops to grant this delegation to a diocesan priest before the celebration of the nuptial Mass, or to the priest of the Society who is celebrating the Mass.

    “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,” the Society’s general house said in a statement.

    “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,” the statement continued. “It is to be hoped that all the bishops share this same pastoral solicitude.”

    • SSPX Communique on marriage faculties

      Louie Verrecchio
      April 5, 2017

      The SSPX has issued a Communiqué of the General House in response to the letter issued by Cardinal Muller concerning the “validity and liceity” of Society marriages.

      Let’s take a look. The relevant portion reads:

      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 have encountered comments suggesting that this response is somehow overly conciliatory; to the point of demonstrating either naiveté or evidence that the Society is about to “sell out” tradition.

      Nonsense.

      The Communique doesn’t say, “Thanks for the faculties without which the marriages that we witness are of questionable validity!”

      In fact, nothing of the sort is even implied.

      The SSPX has always maintained, and continues to maintain, that they have supplied jurisdiction in these matters. As such, the Society itself has never expressed any concern whatsoever about the validity of their marriages or any of the Sacraments they dispense.

      NB: The Society isn’t even offering thanks on behalf of their own faithful, who obviously have no qualms about being married in the presence of a Society priest; rather, the Communique is expressing thanks on behalf of “confused Catholics” who may have been reluctant to do so for fear that it would be invalid.

      Bottom line: The Society rightly recognizes that this latest move on Rome’s part is beneficial for the faithful at large; in particular, the undernourished. It’s good for the Church. As such, it is only fitting to express gratitude.

      The Communique continues:

      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.

      There is a thinly veiled jab being taken here at both Amoris Laetitia (as well as its author) and the preponderance of “full communion” priests; the former for upending the “unchangeable doctrine of Christ about the unity and indissolubility” of marriage, and the latter for so often failing to “prepare future spouses” accordingly.

      Yes, I firmly believe that the Society is derelict in its duty by failing to issue a severe condemnation of Amoris Laetitia; calling its errors by their proper name – blasphemy and heresy. In other words, I think that the time for cleverness passed a long time ago.

      Even so, I see nothing explicit in this most recent Communique that justifies claims, frequently made with reckless abandon, that the SSPX is losing its grip on tradition.

  9. Agreement with Rome: Is the Society getting cold feet?

    Louie Verrecchio
    April 4, 2017

    According to Vatican Radio:

    The Holy See has established new provisions for the celebration of the Sacrament of Matrimony by members of the faithful who are attached to the Society of Saint Pius X.

    Below is a letter [text in boldface] from Cardinal Muller instructing Ordinaries as to the provisions along with my commentary [regular text].

    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 (Letter Misericordia 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…

    Two things stand out: First, the emphasis is in the original (“for the time being”), which suggests that, at least insofar as Rome is concerned, the deal is all but done.

    Secondly, given that the stated intent is to “reassure the faithful” concerning SSPX marriages – even as “canonical irregularity” still exists (i.e., nothing has changed in this regard) – this amounts to acknowledgement that these marriages have always had “validity and liceity.”

    In other words, the Society’s long held claim of supplied jurisdiction is beyond dispute.

    Surely, the vociferous public detractors of the Society (like Michael Voris & Company), who have delighted in telling anyone who will listen that their marriages are invalid, will be issuing a correction at any moment now (as soon as they finish digesting that crow).

    …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.

    This letter only authorizes “the possibility” of granting faculties; it does not explicitly order anything. Should one expect certain bishops to withhold it?

    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.

    For the sake of clarity, a “regular priest” is a religious (Dominican, Franciscan, etc.) priest (one who is under a rule, Latin: regula).

    Notice as well the affirmation concerning the Mass as offered by a Society priest.

    This indicates Rome’s acknowledgement that the Society’s Masses have also always been valid and licit.

    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.

    While some will find cause for concern over the role of the Ordinary in granting faculties; as if this suggests that the Society will be held hostage by the local bishop even after regularization, I wouldn’t make too much of it.

    No less than three times, the letter states that the intent is to reassure the faithful with respect to validity; it is not ordered to toward making the sacrament valid. There’s a difference.

    Yes, but Rome can’t be trusted! Look at what they did to the FSSP!

    I get it, but in the present case, at this moment, the contents of the letter are all we have.

    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.

    Notice that there is a second intent stated here; namely, to move the process of regularization along.

    If find this rather curious…

    All indications to this point have been that regularization is imminent. If that is so, why is Rome going to the trouble of issuing these provisions now?

    Insofar as the dialogue between the Society and Rome is concerned, all of the concessions have come from the latter; e.g., acknowledging that the documents of Vatican II are neither doctrinal nor binding, and formally granting jurisdiction to hear confessions.

    Yes, the Society issued a very weak statement concerning Amoris Laetitia. They chose not to call it by its proper name; heresy. I’ve been very vocal in my criticism of it, but I’m unwilling to call it a “concession;” as if to accuse the SSPX of making a deal with the Devil.

    In any case, in these provisions concerning marriage, we have another “concession” on Rome’s part.

    Why this? Why now?

    Perhaps the Society specifically requested this provision from Rome as a show of good faith before they take the next step. After all, Bishop Fellay did speak of needing reassurances that the SSPX will be accepted “as they are.”

    Or perhaps the SSPX no longer believes that a suitable agreement is possible and simply took the opportunity to secure this reassurance for their faithful knowing that they will remain in their present state for the foreseeable future.

    Who knows?

    If nothing else, this latest development suggests to me that an agreement is not truly imminent, and if that is the case, clearly the reluctant party is the SSPX.

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