As your humble blogger slowly returns from the family holiday, it is hard to identify what to write about since the last week or so has been quite interesting. But since the latest news pertains to absolution for the sin/crime of abortion and the SSPX faculties to hear confession/absolve sin, I will attempt to put this into perspective. I would also like to mention that the first sitting of the Stealth Sex Synod of 2015 is on October 5th, which is just 33 days from today.
Now back to the issue at hand.
When looking at a headline like the following:
Pope Expands Priests’ Faculties to Forgive Abortion for Jubilee Year, Addresses SSPX Confessions
which can be read on the ZENIT website (see here), the natural question that one asks is how these two issues are related. To the casual observer and not only, the answer appears illusive. But if one keeps in mind that we are 33 days away from the Stealth Sex Synod of 2015 and the strategy for trying to get the Kasperian/Bergoglian “theology done on the knees” past the Bishops’ Synod, is based on a desperate cry for “mercy”, then the fog of war begins lifting and the answer starts coming into focus.
With respect to the regular readers of this blog, individuals who are more than casual observers and even bloggers themselves, will automatically recognize that there is a problem, the same problem actually, with the two “issues” of absolution for sin/crime of abortion and the faculties of the SSPX to absolve sinners, i.e. valid confessions, that pops up right from the outset.
The problem is that these two issues are not real issues.
Let’s start with the easy one first.
With respect to the sin of abortion and the “expanded faculties to forgive abortion” given to the priests by Francis, this is a non issue. The reason that it is an non issue is that the “sin“ of abortion was always considered a sin and absolution was given through the sacrament of Confession.
As to how the pre 1983 Code of Canon Law (CIC) treated abortion, the Code of Canon Law that was binding was the 1917 CIC and the relevant article for our purposes is Canon 2350. Under the 1917 CIC, there was a distinction between the sin of abortion and the crime of abortion. The requirement for absolving the “crime“ of abortion under the former Code contained the “expressed limitation that only “ordinaries” could lift the excommunication for the crime of abortion“. But in the 1983 CIC, the “crime“ of abortion language was dropped. Furthermore, JPII gave all priests the faculties to absolve for the “sin“ of abortion. (see here)
So why are we speaking about the pre 1983 CIC and the “crime“ of abortion and the associated latae sententiae or “automatic excommunication” now? Well because Francis needs the latae sententiae or “automatic excommunication so that he can have something for his missionaries of mercy to do.
Note bene, the reason that there is a need to drag the penalty of latae sententiae into the picture is that it is a penalty for a legitimate “crime”, a penalty that would need to be lifted by the pope. (see here) By dragging this topic into the discussion, it would actually justify the need for these “missionaries of mercy” that Francis will be calling. And since the NO Church types are desperate to find a way to drag the issue of latae sententiae into the picture, the penalty for committing the canonical crime of abortion, based on language that was dropped from the 1983 Code of Canon Law, we now have confusion.
A nice illustration of the twists and turn and general confusion of this issue can be found in the above linked post by the canonist Ed Peters on the Fr. Z blog.
So taking Francis at his word, what we have is Francis giving faculties to priest who already have those faculties under the 1983 Canon Code and faculties given them by JPII.
And now to the second non-issue at hand.
The SSPX and the “temporary” faculties that Francis has so generously bestowed on them by giving them “supplied jurisdiction” to hear confessions and absolve sins.
The SSPX already has the faculties to absolve sin through what is termed “extraordinary supplied jurisdiction”. The “supplied jurisdiction” is granted to the Society under “Normae generals” or general norms of the Code of Canon Law. The following is the true situation as laid out by the SSPX: (see here)
Consequently we must base our activity on the juridical analogy taken from the general norms of the Codes (Canon 20 in the Old Code and Canon 19 in the New Code), which state that if there is no express law concerning a special situation, the rule must be taken from:
1) laws promulgated for similar circumstances. The similar circumstances are those in which the Church supplies jurisdiction on account of the grave danger to souls.
They are the cases of:
• common error concerning a priest’s jurisdiction: Old Code [i.e., the 1917 Code of Canon Law, forthwith “OC”] Canon 209 (New Code [i.e., the 1983 Code of Canon Law, forthwith “NC”] 144).
• positive and probable doubt: OC 209 (NC 144). This can be concerning jurisdiction or common error or danger of death.
• non-cognizance to the fact that jurisdiction has expired: OC 207.
• danger of death: OC 882 and 2252 (NC 976 and 1357). Those who cannot find a suitable confessor for a long period of time and who are consequently in danger of spiritual death must be assimilated to those in danger of death, according to the principle of Canonical Equity (see below).
2) the general principles of canon law, which inspire the particular laws. The two principal ones are:
• the salvation of souls is the highest law (NC 1752).
• the Sacraments are on account of men.
3) recourse equity. This is recourse to the mind of the legislator (when there is nothing explicit in writing), who never wants his legislation to be too onerous (burdensome), but always wants it to be interpreted in a just and favorable manner. That it is indeed the mind of the Church to be generous in the granting of jurisdiction and not overstrict or onerous is also apparent from the following two canons:
• OC 2261 §2 (NC 1335). The Church suspends its prohibition for an excommunicated or suspended priest celebrating the Sacraments or posing acts requiring jurisdiction, provided it be in favor of the faithful who request it for any reasonable cause at all, and especially if there is no other minister.
• OC 878 §2 (NC 970). Ordinaries and superiors are not to restrict jurisdiction. If the priest is suitable and the good of the faithful requires his services this jurisdiction cannot be refused to him. Clearly traditional priests should in justice receive personal jurisdiction and that everywhere (NC 967).
It is clear that, given the present circumstances of crisis in the Church and the principles of Canonical Equity, given the general principles of the law, and the Church’s continuous practice of supplying jurisdiction for the good of the faithful whenever it foresees that this lack of jurisdiction would be to their detriment, traditional priests receive supplied jurisdiction from the law. This is with the understanding that personal jurisdiction is unjustly refused to them simply because of their attachment to the Faith and its traditional expression (inseparable from the Faith), and that the faithful cannot be expected to continually search out and judge for themselves which confessors in the Conciliar Church might be acceptable and might give them the spiritual advice they need (given that the vast majority do not).
So the above is a very clear and concise explanation of the SSPX position that the SSPX has the necessary faculties to hear confessions and absolve sins through “supplied jurisdiction” brought about by the “state of necessity” in which the Catholic church finds Herself in since Vatican II.
Given the above, the issue then turns to: who determines whether the Catholic Church is in a “state of necessity”?
This has been an issue that has been discussed by canonist from all the traditional communities.
That is until yesterday.
The big news yesterday was actually missed by most bloggers and reporter. Who did not miss yesterday’s big news was Mr. Louie Verrecchio. The really big news yesterday was that Francis settled the above debate among the canonists. And he sided with the SSPX position.
To understand how Francis ended the debate, we go over to the Harvesting the Fruits blog and commentary from Louie Verrecchio. (see here) Here is the relevant passage:
Pope Francis stated:
A final consideration concerns those faithful who for various reasons choose to attend churches officiated by priests of the Fraternity of St Pius X. This Jubilee Year of Mercy excludes no one. From various quarters, several Brother Bishops have told me of their good faith and sacramental practice, combined however with an uneasy situation from the pastoral standpoint. I trust that in the near future solutions may be found to recover full communion with the priests and superiors of the Fraternity. In the meantime, motivated by the need to respond to the good of these faithful, through my own disposition, I establish that those who during the Holy Year of Mercy approach these priests of the Fraternity of St Pius X to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation shall validly and licitly receive the absolution of their sins.
Louie Verecchio goes on to explain the significance of this passage:
So, what does this mean?
The canon lawyers and the neo-cons can parse the Code and argue over its meaning until they’re blue in the face, but the fact of the matter is that Pope Francis just confirmed that the Society’s argument with respect to supplied jurisdiction has always been correct.
In a video dated July 15, 2015, the SSPX presented its understanding of the matter saying:
Traditional priests do have a jurisdiction that is neither territorial nor personal but supplied in view of the needs of the faithful in a state of necessity.
NB: The justification for insisting upon this jurisdiction, supplied extraordinarily by the Church, is the “state of necessity.”
Pope Francis, in his letter concerning the Year of Mercy, invoked the very same justification; namely, “the need to respond to the good of these faithful.”
Game, set and match.
Or to paraphrase it another way, what Francis has in fact confirmed is: that because of the need for the Church to respond to “these faithful”, he is invoking the same justification as that which the SSPX invokes.
In other words, Francis and the SSPX are both operating under the same “supplied jurisdiction” brought about by a state of necessity in the Catholic Church, a supplied jurisdiction that is given to all traditional priests under the 1983 Code of Canon Law as per SSPX explanation above.
So concluding for today, what we have is very big news. The nature of the very big news is that Francis, the Roman pontiff and the bishop of Rome has corroborated the position of the SSPX and their canonist that they in fact have “supplied jurisdiction” in the area of hearing confessions and absolving sins. What is also of major importance is that Francis confirms, through his act, that he understands “supplied jurisdiction” in the same maner as does the SSPX and applies it in the same manner as does the SSPX.
Let’s take a second and let that sink in!
At a higher level, the above text illustrates that that Francis has given faculties in two areas, i.e. sins/crimes of abortion and hearing confessions/absolving sins to the SSPX, that are superfluous.
Which leaves us with the question of why did he do this.
I will pick up with this subject matter tomorrow.
In the mean time, have fun watching the neo-modernist tie themselves in knots with the “supplied jurisdiction” issue.