Latin Masses Said by “Suspended” Traditional Priests Will Fulfill the Sunday Obligation
Canon 1248 §1 of the 1983 code of canon law states that “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.”
As canonist Rev. Brian Dunn, J.C.D., pointed out:
...This broad understanding of the fulfillment of the Mass obligation seems to have been the mindset of those who prepared the 1983 Code of Canon Law. While the proposed text for canon 1248 had read that the obligation of Mass attendance is satisfied "anywhere that a Catholic rite is celebrated legitimately” the commission eliminated the word “legitimately" since, the members argued, the cause of illegitimacy rests with the sacred minister, and the faithful should not be punished for the fault of the minister.[vi]
The notes from the discussions of the preparatory committee that formed this particular canon stated the following:
It has been suggested that the word "legitimately” be deleted. All the consultants, with one exception, approve of such a suggestion, because often the cause of illegitimacy resides in the sacred minister, and the Christian faithful should not be punished for such a fault of the sacred minister.[vii]
If the Mass of All Time is not a “Catholic rite,” then nothing is.
The fact that the Code, in using the term “Catholic rite” is referring to a Catholic liturgical rite is apparent from the previous draft which used the term “celebrated legitimately.” One “celebrates” a liturgical rite. This is further confirmed by the history of determining the liceity of which Masses Catholics can assist at. When examining the issue of under what circumstances Catholics could participate in even schismatic worship in 1948, canonist Fr. Ignatius J. Szal stated:
The foregoing discussion on the rites to be observed in the administration of the sacraments has a bearing on the present subject. There are times when the Church does permit the faithful to receive the sacraments from a schismatical minister, but when such a permission is granted a necessary condition is set, namely, that the sacrament be administered according to the rite of the Church. It is not very likely that the schismatical minister will administer the sacraments in exactly the same rite as would be observed by a Catholic priest. However, before the faithful could receive the sacraments from a schismatical minister, there would have to be some certainty that the substantial or essential rites necessary for the validity would be observed by him when he confers the sacrament.[viii]
If the Mass of All Time is not a “Catholic rite,” then nothing is.
Of course, those old-timers in the Traditional movement will realize this is all old hat. The above interpretation of the canon was confirmed by none other than the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy in Rome as early as 1984 as applied to the priests of the SSPX, who were suspended a divinis at the time in the eyes of Rome. As Catholic writer Michael Davies recalled:
In a personal letter to Cardinal Oddi, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy in Rome, a Catholic lady who recently started attending the Latin Tridentine Mass wrote to him on January 11, 1984, regarding the "important issue concerning Archbishop Lefebvre's Society of St. Pius X" and pointedly asked His Eminence what is probably an unprecedented request:
. . . could you kindly send my family and myself a letter with the information that you told me on the telephone that we are fulfilling our Sunday obligation for Sunday Mass by attending Holy Mass at the Chapel of St. Michael the Archangel which is under Archbishop Lefebvre . . ."
This letter was signed by Mrs. Barbara Kennan. The Cardinal's reply was as follows:
17 March 1984
Dear Mrs. Keenan,
I have your letter of January 11th and thank you for it. According to the new Code of Canon Law, "The obligation of assisting at Mass is satisfied wherever Mass is celebrated in a Catholic rite either on the day of obligation itself or in the evening a previous day ." (Canon 1248.1)
I hope that settles your doubts. In the meantime, I send you and your loved ones my blessing and wish you God's choicest graces,
Faithfully in Christ,
Sacraments Requested from Most “Suspended” Traditional Priests will be Licit
Can. 1335 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law states:
If a censure prohibits the celebration of sacraments or sacramentals or the placing of an act of governance, the prohibition is suspended whenever it is necessary to care for the faithful in danger of death. If a latae sententiae censure has not been declared, the prohibition is also suspended whenever a member of the faithful requests a sacrament or sacramental or an act of governance; a person is permitted to request this for any just cause.
Thus, unless the hypothetical future censures against Ecclesia Dei priests are either imposed by a legal tribunal (ferendae sententiae) or are incured automatically (latae sententiae) and then “declared” by Rome, the provisions of this canon would apply. This canon currently applies to the clergy of the SSPX as their latae sententiae suspensions are undeclared.
In this situation, Catholic faithful would be permitted to request a sacrament or sacramental or an act of governance (includes jurisdiction for confessions) from these priests for “any just cause.” If this is accomplished, Canon 1335 lifts the suspension for these requested sacraments and sacramentals. This has the effect of making these acts licit on behalf of the priest performing them and for the faithful receiving them.
The “just cause” standard is not a high canonical bar. The “New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law,” commenting on this canon, states “In such situations the faithful may generally seek such ministry for any just cause, e.g., deepening one’s spiritual life.”[x]
As far back as 1928, Fr. Francis Hyland, J.C.L, gave the following examples of what quailfies as “just cause” from a canonical perspective:
...the earlier conferring of Baptism, the dispelling of a doubt concerning the gravity of a sin, the intention of approaching Holy Communion with greater purity of soul, the intention of receiving the Holy Eucharist more frequently, etc. "Any reason may be called just which promotes devotion or wards off temptations or is prompted by real convenience, for instance, if one does not like to call another minister."[xi]
Fr. Hyland commented on this requirement of the faithful to request the sacrament or sacramentals from even an excommunicated priest in order for the censure to be lifted for these acts. Fr. Hyland was examining Canon 2261 in the 1917 Code which is one of the corresponding provisions to Canon 1335 in the 1983 Code:
In order that a simpliciter toleratus[xii] may licitly celebrate Mass, administer the sacraments and prepare and administer the sacramentals, he must be requested to do so (requisitus) . It is not necessary, however, that the request be explicit. Almost all authors teach than an implicit or reasonably presumed petition suffices. Such a petition is had whenever the good of souls demands the celebration of Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or the preparation or administration of the sacramentals...[xiii] Hence, such an excommunicate may show himself ready to hear confessions on Saturdays and vigils of feasts, to distribute Holy Communion even on weekday mornings, to celebrate Mass on Sundays and Holydays, and it would seem in these days of daily attendance at Mass, even on days throughout the week.[xiv]
As for teaching and preaching, Fr. Charles Augustine, O.S.B., writing in 1918 in his commentary on the 1917 Code of Canon Law, states the following regarding those priests excommunicated without a “special sentence.” This situation of priests ecommunicated without a condemnatory or declared sentence under Canon 2661 of the 1917 Code is analogous to our hypothetical of modern suspended Traditional priests whose sentences haven’t been declared under Canon 1335 in the 1983 Code:
Persons excommunicated by a condemnatory or declaratory sentence, and a fortiori vitandi, can neither validly nor lawfully perform acts of jurisdiction, except in danger of death, according to can. 2261, §3. Acts of jurisdiction are here expressly declared to comprise both the internal and the external forum. An act of jurisdiction is the so-called missio canonica, because the commission to teach or preach, according to the more common doctrine, is an act emanating from jurisdiction. Consequently this mission also is lost by excommunication.
However, here, too, must be applied what our text allows for those simply excommunicated without a special sentence. Therefore, if an excommunicated priest would be asked to preach or teach, he could do it lawfully.[xv]
Thus, Catholic faithful will be allowed to request sacraments, sacramentals, teaching, and preaching from priests who are “suspended” in the manner stated above, by Archbishop Roche or Pope Francis for “any just cause.” The many reasons listed in part one of this article would most certainly qualify as just cause: the desire for reverent traditional Masses, avoidance of rampant liturgical abuses among “approved” priests, avoidance of heretical teaching of “approved priests,” sound Catholic guidance in the confessional, sound Catholic teaching, especially to the children, sound doctrinal teaching on marriage, confirmation, etc.
Jurisdiction for Confessions, Marriages, and Confirmations Will be Supplied for “Suspended” Traditional Priests under Canon Law
In addition to the power of orders, certain sacraments, such as confessions and marriages, also require the power of governance known as jurisdiction in order to be valid. SSPX priests have already been given faculties to validly absolve in the sacrament of penance and the faculty to preside over marriages with consent of the local bishop.[xvi] Any Traditional priests who are “suspended” under Traditionis Custodes would most likely be in the same canonical situation as the SSPX priests were before Francis granted them faculties.
Back in 2013, I wrote two articles on canon law supplying jurisdiction for the SSPX in that situation.[xvii] The links to those articles are in the footnotes. The analysis in these articles would apply to Traditional priests suspended as a result of Traditionis Custodes as well. The particularly relevant analyses in those articles is of Canon 144 §1 of the 1983 Code which states:
- 1 In common error or in positive or probable doubt about either law or fact, the Church supplies jurisdiction for both the external and internal forum.”
- 2. The same norm is applied to the faculties mentioned in cann. 882.883.966. and 1111, §1.
It is interesting to note that The New Commentary on the 1983 Code states the following regarding section two:
The second paragraph states that the canon applies to the faculties mentioned in canon 883 on the sacrament of confirmation, canon 966 on hearing confession, and canon 111 1. §1 on assisting as an official witness at a wedding. Furthermore, the canon applies to the executive power of all superiors and chapters in institutes of consecrated life (c. 596, §3).[xviii]
We are now facing the very real yet unfortunate possiblity that Pope Francis and/or Archbishop Roche might have the temerity to suspend all Traditional priests simply for saying the Latin Mass or refusing to say the Novus Ordo. As a result you may eventually face a situation in your local area where your only choices for sacraments, sacramentals, and religious intruction are between “suspended” Traditional parish priests and various Novus Ordo parishes where you may experience the following:
As a result you now have the following guidelines, even assuming the unjust suspensions of these Traditional priests are valid:
- Traditional Latin Masses of suspended Ecclesia Dei priests will be valid and will count for your Sunday obligation as they are celebrated in a Catholic Rite. (Canon 1248 §1)
- If the priests are suspended under an undeclared laetae sententiae censure, you are permitted to request sacraments, sacramentals, preaching or teaching from them for any just cause. These requests can be implicit and the priest is not required to inquire into the reason. All of these acts performed by the priest would be licit. (Canon § 1335)
- Jurisdiction is supplied to these priests under common error and positive and probable doubt for confessions, marriages, and confirmations. These sacraments would be valid. (Canon §144)
But besides the legalities, it is important to keep in mind the big picture. The last words of the 1983 Code, found in Canon §1752 read, “...the salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law in the Church, is to be kept before one’s eyes.”
Pius XI confirmed this. As canonist, Fr. Szal, stated:
The Church by its very purpose must look to the salvation of souls, and hence is bound to grant, to that end, all things that depend on its power. He [Capello, a noted canonist] states also that Pope Pius XI openly declared and wished it to be expressly known that the Roman Pontiff supplied jurisdiction, if there be need for it, to whatever extent it was required.[xix]
Pope Pius XII confirmed this as well:
For canon law, too, is for the good of souls, and all its rules and laws tend chiefly to this ultimate purpose that men may live sanctified by God's grace and may die holy deaths.[xx]
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[ii] “Canon 1248: The Concurrence of Liturgical Days and the Obligation of Assisting at Mass,” Rev. Brian Dunn, J.C.D., Roman replies and CLSA advisory opinions 2008, Canon Law Society of America, 2008, p. 117.
[iii] “Suggestum est ut deleátur verbum « legitime ». Omnes Consultores, uno excepto, talem suggestionem approbant, quia saepe saepius causa illegitimitatis residet in ministro sacro et non debent puniri christifideles pro tali culpa ministri sacri.” Communicationis 12 (1980) 361.
[iv] “The Communication of Catholics with Schismatics: A Historical Synopsis and Commentary,” Rev. Ignatius J. Szal, A.B., J.C.L., Catholic Universit of America Press, 1948, p. 62.
[vi] “Canon 1248: The Concurrence of Liturgical Days and the Obligation of Assisting at Mass,” Rev. Brian Dunn, J.C.D., Roman replies and CLSA advisory opinions 2008, Canon Law Society of America, 2008, p. 117.
[vii] “Suggestum est ut deleátur verbum « legitime ». Omnes Consultores, uno excepto, talem suggestionem approbant, quia saepe saepius causa illegitimitatis residet in ministro sacro et non debent puniri christifideles pro tali culpa ministri sacri.” Communicationis 12 (1980) 361.
[viii] “The Communication of Catholics with Schismatics: A Historical Synopsis and Commentary,” Rev. Ignatius J. Szal, A.B., J.C.L., Catholic Universit of America Press, 1948, p. 62.
[ix] “THE LEGAL STATUS OF THE TRIDENTINE MASS: Some Further Thoughts,” Michael Davies, The Angelus, September 1984.
[x] “New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law: Study Edition,” Beal, Coriden, Green, Editors., Paulist Press, 2000, p. 1553.
[xi] “Excommunication: It’s Nature, Historical Development, and Effects,” Catholic University of America Canon Law Studies, Number 49., Fr. Edward Hyland, J.C.L., Catholic University of America, 1928, p. 92.
[xii] “Canon 2261, § 2 has reference to petitioning the sacraments and sacramentals from excommunicates who are neither vitandi, nor tolerati against whom any sentence, either declaratory or condemnatory, has been issued. They will be spoken of as the simpliciter tolerati.” Id.p. 91.
[xiii] Id. The cited text adds “and there is present no other minister besides a simpliciter toleratus.” However, this refers to the 1917 Code provision language in Canon 2261 §2 that used to say “The faithful, with due regard for the prescription of § 3, can for any just cause seek the Sacraments and Sacramentals from one excommunicated, especially if other ministers are lacking..” The language “especially if other ministers are lacking” has been removed from Canon 1335 in the 1983 Code and is no longer applicable. p. 92
[xiv] Id., pp. 92-93.
[xv] A Commentary On The New Code Of Canon Law, Volume 8: Book 5. Penal code (Can. 2195-2414) with complete index by Charles Augustine, Rev. P., O.S.B., B. Herder Book Co., 1918. pp. 194.
[xvi] LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS ACCORDING TO WHICH AN INDULGENCE IS GRANTED TO THE FAITHFUL ON THE OCCASION OF THE EXTRAORDINARY JUBILEE OF MERCY, Pope Francis, 2015. https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/letters/2015/documents/papa-francesco_20150901_lettera-indulgenza-giubileo-misericordia.html and Apostolic Letter Misericordia et Misera, Pope Francis, 2016. https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_letters/documents/papa-francesco-lettera-ap_20161120_misericordia-et-misera.html#_ftnref14
[xviii] A Commentary On The New Code Of Canon Law, Volume 8: Book 5. Penal code (Can. 2195-2414) with complete index by Charles Augustine, Rev. P., O.S.B., B. Herder Book Co., 1918. pp. 189-190.
[xix] “The Communication of Catholics with Schismatics: A Historical Synopsis and Commentary,” Rev. Ignatius J. Szal, A.B., J.C.L., Catholic Universit of America Press, 1948, p. 58-59.
[xx] Pius XII, Address to Seminarians, June 24, 1939; https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/address-to-seminarians-8938