Relations between the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) and the Vatican have moved one step closer to normal as Pope Francis has authorized bishops to allow SSPX priests to celebrate the sacramental rite of marriage.
In an April 4 story, Zenit reports that the pope expressed his decision in a March 27 letter of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, which is the point of contact between the Vatican and the SSPX. The letter was published on April 4.
“Pope Francis has decided to authorize Bishops ‘to grant permissions for the celebration of marriages of the faithful’ who follow the pastoral activity of the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), under certain conditions, to ‘recover the serenity of the faithful’s conscience’ and ‘to facilitate the path towards full institutional regularization.’”
This latest accommodation to the SSPX, Zenit reports, follows other recent actions seeking to normalize relations between the Vatican and the SSPX.
“The Letter establishes a parallel with the authorization granted by Pope Francis for the Sacrament of Reconciliation,” Zenit states, “geared to ‘assuring the validity and legality of the Sacrament’ and ‘to not leave persons in doubt.’”
Some conditions are necessary for the SSPX priests to celebrate the Rite of Marriage, Zenit also reports.
“The principal condition is that a priest delegate of the Bishop of the place receives the spouses’ consent; ‘the celebration will then follow the Holy Votive Mass by a priest of the Society.’ But, suggestions are made when that is not possible.”
The letter insists, the Zenit story states, that it is about “avoiding debates of conscience among the faithful who adhere to the SSPX and doubts on the validity of the Sacrament of Marriage.”
The permission comes, Zenit also reports, even as the Vatican acknowledges in the letter that there still exists “the objective persistence, for the moment, of the illegitimate canonical situation in which the Society of Saint Pius X finds itself.”
The complete text of the April 4 Letter of the Ecclesia Dei Commission follows:
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, 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 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.
Gerhard Card. L. Müller
+ Guido Pozzo
Titular Archbishop of Bagnoregio