GUEST CONTRIBUTION: Q&A with the Pont. Comm. Ecclesia Dei about SSPX, schism and sacraments
An important point from the article:
[Response from the Pontificial Commission of Ecclesia Dei]: “The bishops of the Society of St. Pius X are excommunicated according to the prescription of canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law which states that “A bishop who consecrates someone a bishop without pontifical mandate and the person who receives the consecration from him incur a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.” Archbishop Lefebvre was duly reminded of this before his conferral of Episcopal ordination on 30 June 1988 and the Holy Father confirmed that this penalty had been incurred in his Apostolic Letter Ecclesia Dei, #3 [cf. AAS 80 (1988) 1495-1498; English translation in L’Osservatore Romano English edition of 11 July 1988, p. 1].
“The priests of the Society of St. Pius X are validly ordained, but suspended, that is prohibited from exercising their priestly functions because they are not properly incardinated in a diocese of religious institute in full communion with the Holy See (cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 265) and also because those ordained after the schismatic Episcopal ordinations were ordained by an excommunicated bishop.
“Concretely, this means that the Masses offered by the priests of the Society of St. Pius X are valid, but illicit, i.e., contrary to Canon Law. The Sacraments of Penance and Matrimony, however, require that the priest enjoys the faculties of the diocese or has proper delegation. Since that is not the case with these priests, these sacraments are invalid.
Please do read the whole article, with Fr. Z.'s commentary which further clarifies some points and shows some important subtilties in the practice of this.
And also please pray for the SSPX (and other traditional groups who are not enjoying full communion with the Church). This is a great time of grace having a pope who is so actively seeking their full return to the fold. We are already seeing some grace filled results with the lifting of the sensures on the Transalpine Redemptorists' priests. However, keep praying for them as they seek to canonically regularize their status in the Church.
EDIT - Since I made an error in one of my comments at Fr. Z.'s blog, but he closed the comments before I could admit my mistake, I'll just post it here.
I had said that "marriage is not valid until consummation." However, I was incorrect. Discussion about marriage needs precision, so I'll just quote Canon Law and correct my error:
Can. 1061 §1. A valid marriage between the baptized is called ratum tantum if it has not been consummated; it is called ratum et consummatum if the spouses have performed between themselves in a human fashion a conjugal act which is suitable in itself for the procreation of offspring, to which marriage is ordered by its nature and by which the spouses become one flesh.
The reason for this comment was that several people were in a tizzy about the statement that SSPX marriages are being declared invalid by the PCED. I think it boils down to a priest needing legal faculties from the local ordinary.
Can. 1108 §1. Only those marriages are valid which are contracted before the local ordinary, pastor, or a priest or deacon delegated by either of them, who assist, and before two witnesses according to the rules expressed in the following canons and without prejudice to the exceptions mentioned in cann. 144, 1112, §1, 1116, and 1127, §§1-2.
SSPX have no legal faculties for confession and marriage. None of their priests are under a local ordinary bishop. Legally the SSPX priests cannot represent the Church, (except in danger of death). Thus the form is not valid, invalidating the marriage.
I wish Dr. Ed Peters would comment on this. I respect his opinion more than anonymous posts of people claiming to be canon lawyers in an internet blog commments section. It probably doesn't help that I have only dabbled in canon law myself.
Marriage is a very complex Sacrament theologically and even more so legally.