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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Vatican Provision for SSPX Marriages Sparks Major Controversy in French District

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Abbé Christian Bouchacourt, SSPX District Superior of France Abbé Christian Bouchacourt, SSPX District Superior of France

This just in from our friends at the Society of St. Pius X:

On April 4, 2017, the General House published a press release to express “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.'” This communiqué recalled the Society’s intention to continue in the same spirit what it has always done, namely “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 Holy Church.”

In an “authorized commentary”, the official website of the Society of Saint Pius X (fsspx.news) clearly recalled the Society’s positions concerning marriages, particularly their validity, even without official delegation: “However, just as the sacrament of penance was not invalidly conferred by the priests of the Society of St. Pius X before 2015, neither were the marriages celebrated without the official delegation of the local bishop or parish pastor.” This commentary was based on what Canon Law provides in such cases.

From the beginning, the authorities of the Society have unceasingly protested to the Roman authorities against the unjust, scandalous declarations of nullity pronounced almost automatically by ecclesiastical tribunals just because canonical form was not observed. By this gesture of the Supreme Pontiff, an important change is effected: from now on the official clergy will be obliged to recognize the ability of the priests of the Society of Saint Pius X to be authorized witnesses of the Church, and marriages can no longer be declared null without a canonical process in the correct and due form.

Bishop Bernard Fellay, the Superior General, also informed the superiors and the other members of the Society that guidelines would be established for the prudent application of these new provisions.

Unfortunately, some priests from the District of France did not wait for the publication of these guidelines, and on Sunday, May 7, 2017, they imprudently read from the pulpit and published a letter addressed to the faithful, without the District Superior’s knowledge, calling into question the direction of the Society.

The District Superior, Father Christian Bouchacourt, has relieved these signatories from their function as deans. He condemns this subversive act, prepared in secret, aimed to destabilize superiors and taking the faithful hostage. READ ARTICLE HERE

REMNANT COMMENTPerhaps this Remnant translation of the letter in question will help our readers to better understand the essence of a controversy that seems to us to involve valid arguments and concerns on both sides of the dispute. If the SSPX leadership recognizes herein an opportunity to prevent their marriages from being annulled--practically automatically--by the Vatican, then perhaps they are quite right to find some way to take advantage of this provision in such a way as to assist their faithful achieve peace of mind and soul when it comes to the question of marraige, while at the same time insisting on the state of necessity and the consequent right to the extraordinary form of marriage and the other sacraments. In any case, we present both sides of this important development in an effort to help facilitate constructive discussion of a serious canonical issue, and not with the intent to take sides on a question so fundamental to the life and sacramental function of the Society of St. Pius X. We pray for a peaceful resolution:

Dear Faithful,

On April 4 last, the Pontifical Ecclesia Dei Commission published a letter from its President, Cardinal Müller, in relation to marriages celebrated by the priests of the SSPX. Explicitly approved by the Pope who ordered its publication, this document intends to regulate marriages celebrated within the framework of Catholic Tradition.

Following this letter, a vast communication campaign emanating from very different quarters would like to make us believe that, by this gesture, the Pope purely and simply recognizes the marriages which we celebrate, and even that he recognizes the validity of all the marriages which we have celebrated to date. The reality is, alas, very different.

Since this matter intimately affects you, since it concerns your family, your children who are of an age to get married, and your future, we are duty-bound to enlighten you both on the true significance of this Roman document as well as our attitude towards it.

The obvious validity of our marriages

As you know, for forty years now, the Roman authorities have been refusing to recognize the validity of the marriages which we celebrate, and this despite the Law of the Church.

Certainly, this Law envisages that the Sacrament of Matrimony be celebrated in the presence of the Parish Priest or his delegate, as well as before at least two witnesses[1]. This is what is called the canonical form of marriage, necessary for its validity. However, since the priests of the Society of Saint Pius X are neither Parish Priests nor delegated by them, certain people maintain that the marriages they celebrate are invalid, due to lack of canonical form. This is the motive for which both Roman and diocesan tribunals do not hesitate to declare these marriages invalid. However, in doing so, they oppose the most fundamental Law of the Church[2].

In effect, this same Canon Law[3] foresees the case where “it is not possible to have or to go to find an assistant who is competent according to the Law, without a great inconvenience”. If such a situation were foreseen to last thirty days, in this case Ecclesiastical Law recognizes the right of the future spouses to validly and licitly exchange their consent before lay witnesses alone; therefore without either the Parish Priest or a priest delegated by him. However, for the act to be licit, these future spouses must call on any other available priest, if this is possible. A marriage thus celebrated is done so according to what is called the extraordinary form. It is under this form that we have been both validly and licitly receiving the exchange of your marriage vows for the past forty years, without there being any possibility of doubt.

The State of Necessity

Because, as you know, there can, alas, be no doubt concerning the extraordinarily dramatic situation through which the Church is currently passing[4]. For, ever increasingly in our own day, the Church is undergoing what Archbishop Lefebvre was accustomed to call “Satan's masterstroke”. This “masterstroke” consists in “spreading revolutionary principles by the authority of the Church Itself”[5]. In effect, we see Church authorities, from the See of Peter right down to the Parish Priest, undermining the Catholic Faith via a deviant humanism which, placing the cult of conscience at the pinacle, dethrones Our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, the Kingship of Christ over human societies is simply unknown, or even combatted, and the Church is gripped by that liberal spirit which especially manifests itself in Religious Liberty, Ecumenism and Collegiality. Through this spirit, it is the very nature of the Redemption carried out by Our Lord Jesus Christ which is called into question, it is the Catholic Church, unique Ark of Salvation, which is de facto denied. Catholic Morality itself, already shaken in its foundations, is being overthrown by Pope Francis, for example when he explicitly opens the way for the divorced and “remarried”, living as a married couple, to receive Holy Communion.

This dramatic attitude of the Ecclesiastical authorities brings about a real state of necessity for the faithful. In effect, there is not only a great inconvenience, but even moreso a real danger in placing one's salvation in the hands of pastors who are imbued with this “adulterous”[6] spirit, detrimental to both Faith and Morals. We have no other choice but to protect ourselves from such an authority because it “is in a situation of permanent incoherence and contradiction” and because “so long as this ambivalence has not been dissipated, disasters will multiply in the Church”[7]. We are living in circumstances where true obedience requires us to disobey[8], because “we ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5, 29).

As long as this ambivalence of the Ecclesiastical authorities has not been dissipated, the great inconvenience foreseen by Canon 1098 will equally persist, and the celebration of marriages according to the extraordinary form will therefore be justified.

Furthermore, since Matrimony (like all the sacraments) implies a profession of Faith, we cannot go against the right which the faithful have to the sacraments by imposing on them a minister who habitually carries out his ministry in the adulterous direction officialised at Vatican II, while they have the possibility of referring to a priest who is unscathed by this prevarication in the Faith.

The significance of the Roman document

The true significance of the Roman document appears in light of these principles. Persisting in the disastrous line of Vatican II, the Roman authorities simply intend to deprive you of the extraordinary form of marriage by denying the state of necessity. Therefore, this document wants to oblige you to have recourse for your marriage to a diocesan priest, only leaving the priests of the SSPX with the possibility of celebrating the Mass which follows the ceremony. The Ecclesia Dei Commission foresees in effect that, “ 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 [...], followed ... by the celebration of Mass, which may be celebrated by a priest of the Society”.

It is only “where the above is not possible, or if there are no priests in the Diocese able to receive the consent of the parties, [that] the Ordinary may grant the necessary faculties to the priest of the Society”. In other words, it is only if there is a case of necessity (whose nature we do not know, because it is no longer the grave damage which the liberal spirit causes to the Catholic Faith) that the Bishop may give delegation to a priest of the Society of Saint Pius X. Every other marriage celebrated by a priest of the SSPX without explicit delegation of the Ordinary will continue to be considered invalid by the current holders of the supreme authority.

Apart from the fact that such a decision is as unjust as it is null, it is also a further violation of the spirit of the Law. The Ecclesia Dei Commission permits itself to do what even the New Code of Canon Law had not, that is to place the extraordinary form of marriage under the control of the Ordinary, and this at the expense of the natural right to marriage[9].

Our marriages, most certainly valid yesterday, today and tomorrow

So long as this dramatic state of the Church and the destructive ambivalence of Its highest authorities last, we will continue for our part to use the extraordinary form of marriage, without allowing ourselves to be unduly controlled by the Ordinary.

We will, therefore, continue to validly and licitly celebrate your marriages in our churches and chapels, as we have done up to now, referring for this to Canons 1098 of the Old Code and 1116 of the New, irrespective of any prior understanding with the Ordinary.

To those who object that such a practice would henceforward be invalid since the Ecclesiastical authorities are offering a possible delegation of the Ordinary, we reply that the state of necessity which legitimates our way of doing things is not canonical, but dogmatic, and that the impossibility of having recourse to the current authorities is not a physical, but a moral one. We simply do not want to abandon those souls who, driven by circumstances, confide in our ministry. They have not fled the prevaricating authorities in order for us to impose them upon them during one of the most important ceremonies of their life. Besides, those who make such an objection show that they know very little about Church Law, which reasons in precisely the opposite manner. In effect, the latter allows the faithful to volontarily place themselves in a case of necessity in order to contract a marriage according to the extraordinary form, even though they have the possibility of doing otherwise[10].

In the case where certain faithful would obtain from a Parish Priest the possibility of having their marriage celebrated in his Parish church, we would stick to our wise customs which have been established over time. Insofar as this Parish Priest is habitually well-disposed towards the Tradition of the Church and would allow us to preach the sermon, we can see no objection to him receiving the marriage vows according to the Traditional Ritual, while leaving a priest of our Society to celebrate Mass[11]. But we will refuse to celebrate Mass in the case where, delegation having to be given, it is refused to us and given instead to an Ecclesia Dei priest, for example.

For the good of the Sacrament of Matrimony, for the good of your families, for the good of your souls, neither do we intend to submit the judgment of your marriages to an Ecclesiastical jurisdiction whose tribunals declare certainly valid marriges to be null, under the false pretext of a lack of psychological maturity on the part of the contracting parties. We know, besides, to what extent these same tribunals ratify de facto Catholic divorce by means of the simplified procedure for marriage annulments which has been promulgated by Pope Francis. That is why we will continue to only recognize as ultimate judge of these questions the Saint Charles Borromeo Canonical Commission, which the Society of Saint Pius X had to establish precisely because of these certainly invalid declarations of nullity.

Conclusion

Finally, permit us to express our great astonishment at the reaction to this Roman decision. The Personal Prelature which is being dangled before the eyes of the Society of Saint Pius X was supposed to recognize us as we are, and to maintain our independence vis-à-vis the local Ordinaries. However, the first decisions taken consist in unjustly submitting our marriages to these very Ordinaries, while tomorrow the opening of any new Houses will have to meet their approval. This shows to what extent double-speak reigns supreme not only in the domain of Faith and Morals, but even in these canonical matters.

Also, in this Centenary Year of the apparitions of Fatima, we invoke the Immaculate Heart of Mary, not so that She will end our canonical situation which is judged irregular by some, but so that the Church may be freed from Its Modernist occupation and that the highest authorities may once more find the path followed by the Church up to Vatican II. Then our bishops will be able to place their episcopacy in the hands of the Sovereign Pontiff[12].

May 7, 2017,

Father David ALDALUR, Dean of Bordeaux Region
Father Xavier BEAUVAIS, Dean of Marseille Region
Father François-Xavier CAMPER, Dean of Lyon Region
Father Bruno FRANCE, Dean of Nantes Region
Father Thierry GAUDRAY, Dean of Lille Region
Father Patrick de LA ROCQUE, Dean of Paris Region
Father Thierry LEGRAND, Dean of Saint-Malo Region

Also signed this letter :

Reverend Father JEAN-MARIE, Superior of the Society of the Transfiguration, Mérigny, France.
Reverend Father PLACIDE, Prior of the Benedictine Monastery of Bellaigue, France.
Reverend Father ANTOINE, Guardian of the Capuchin Monastery of Morgon, France.

 


[1] Archbishop Lefebvre, Public Declaration on the occasion of the episcopal consecrations of several priests of the SSPX, June 30, 1988.
[2] Here it is the fundamental axioms of the Church's Law which are at stake: “The Supreme Law of the Church is the Salvation of Souls”, and “The sacraments are for well-disposed men”
[3]  1917 Code 1917, Canon 1098 ; 1983 Code, Canon 1116.
[4]  Even in the case where there was a doubt as to the existence of this exceptional situation which authorizes the use of the extraordinary form of marriage, it must be emphasized that, according to the Law, the Church would supply for the lack of jurisdiction (1917, Canon 209; 1983 Code, Canon 144), therefore entirely maintaining the validity of the act. 
[5]  Archbishop Lefebvre, Le coup de maître de Satan, Editions saint Gabriel, 1977, pp. 5-6.
[6]   Archbishop efebvre, Public Declaration on the occasion of the episcopal consecrations of several priests of the SSPX, June 30, 1988.
[7]  Archbishop Lefebvre, Le coup de maître de Satan, Editions saint Gabriel, 1977, pp. 5-6.
[8]  Archbishop Lefebvre, L’obéissance peut-elle nous obliger à désobéir ?, note of March 29, 1988 in Fideliter, Special Edition of June 29 and 30, 1988.
[9]  C.f. André Sale, La forma straordinaria e il ministro della celebrazione del matrimonio secondo il codice latino e orientale, Pontificia Universita Gregoriana Editions, Rome 2003, pp. 142 to 154: on the eve of the Second Vatican Council, several bishops and cardinals asked for a modification of Canon 1098 in relation to the extraordinary form of marriage. To avoid abuses in the use of this form, they proposed that it should not be used without the spouses having at least attempted to have recourse to the Ordinary, and never against the advice of the latter. Thus, a plan for the modification of the aforementioned Canon was proposed at the 4th Session of the Council: “ [Forma extraordinaria celebrationis matrimonii] Ad valide contrahendum matrimonium coram solis testibus extra periculum mortis, praeter conditiones praescriptas in can. 1098 CIC, requiritur : a) ut petitio Ordinario loci facienda, si fieri possit, omissa non fuerit, vel matrimonium non celebretur nisi post mensem ab interposita petitione sine responsione ; b) ut matrimonium non celebretur contra ordinarii vetitum (Conc. Vatic. II ; Periodus III, in AS 3, pars 8, 1075) [The extrardinary form of the celebration of marriage] To validly contract marriage outside the danger of death and before the witnesses alone, and beyond the conditions prescribed by Canon 1098, it is required: a) that the request which must be made to the Local Ordinary be not omitted, if possible, or that the marriage not be celebrated before one month has elapsed since sending the request and without having received a response; b) that the marriage not be celebrated against the prohibition of the Ordinary”. Following a difficult discussion, the majority of the Conciliar Fathers decided to leave the decision in the hands of the Pope and the Commission for the Revision of Canon Law. This Commission dealt with this point several times (in 1970, 1975, 1978 and 1982), but the discussions were bitter. Finally, Canon 1116 of the New Code substantially reiterated Canon 1098, without introducing the least requirement to have recourse to the Ordinary in order to use the extraordinary form of marriage. The motive for this was to ensure the natural right to marriage in all circumstances. 
[10] March 13, 1910. the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments declares valid a marriage which is contracted before witnesses alone and where, in order to circumvent the Law, the contracting parties have gone to a region where the common impossibility exists. C.f. Naz, Traité de Droit Canonique in Can. 1098, Volume II, N° 426, p. 377, Note 2. 
[11] In doing this, we would not intend, however, to endorse the manifest injustice of the new Roman decision, which makes a priest of the Society of Saint Pius X inapt to receive jurisdiction from a Parish Priest, and denies the latter a power which is, nonetheless, ordinary to him. 
[12]  Archbishop Lefebvre, Public Declaration on the occasion of the episcopal consecrations of several priests of the SSPX, June 30, 1988.

 

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Michael Matt | Editor

Michael Matt has been an editor of The Remnant since 1990. Since 1994, he has been the newspaper's editor. A graduate of Christendom College, Michael Matt has written hundreds of articles on the state of the Church and the modern world. He is the host of The Remnant Underground and Remnant TV's The Remnant Forum. He's been U.S. Coordinator for Notre Dame de Chrétienté in Paris--the organization responsible for the Pentecost Pilgrimage to Chartres, France--since 2000.  Mr. Matt has led the U.S. contingent on the Pilgrimage to Chartres for the last 24 years. He is a lecturer for the Roman Forum's Summer Symposium in Gardone Riviera, Italy. He is the author of Christian Fables, Legends of Christmas and Gods of Wasteland (Fifty Years of Rock ‘n’ Roll) and regularly delivers addresses and conferences to Catholic groups about the Mass, home-schooling, and the culture question. Together with his wife, Carol Lynn and their seven children, Mr. Matt currently resides in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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