September 2014 Print

Questions and Answers


Is the “Catholic” marriage of an insincere convert from paganism valid?

There are two kinds of insincerity possible in a convert who receives adult baptism to become a Catholic. It is the responsibility of the minister of the sacrament to exclude both, but it is certainly possible for a person to receive baptism insincerely in order to marry a Catholic.

The first kind of insincerity exists when a person who is baptized has no real contrition for sin nor firm purpose of amendment nor the desire to live a Catholic life. He is insincere. However, he does have the intention of being baptized. The sacrament will not be fruitful, but it is valid, and confers the sacramental character, so that the person thus insincerely baptized is Catholic, even if his reception of baptism is sacrilegious and the baptized person a bad Catholic. Consequently marriage vows pronounced by such a person when marrying a Catholic in the Church constitute a sacramental marriage which is valid and cannot be annulled for lack of sincerity.

 There is a second kind of insincerity. This is the case when a person goes through the ceremony of baptism but without faith and without any intention at all of being baptized. Not only is he not sorry for his sins, but he does not want to receive the sacrament. Then the baptism is invalid. The person remains unbaptized and still a pagan. Consequently, any subsequent marriage would be invalid due to the impediment of disparity of cult, for the dispensation from this impediment would not have been requested since the person was thought to have been baptized. Such gross hypocrisy is an unlikely case. The problem here would be proving that the person excluded the intention of being baptized. Witnesses from the actual time of the baptism would have to be found and their testimony would have to be very precise.

Is the Confession of a Novus Ordo Catholic in a traditional church valid?

This is a question of supplied jurisdiction, namely does the Church supply jurisdiction to a person who is not convinced of the doctrinal reasons for the Society’s combat against the errors of Vatican II and the New Mass.

There are many reasons for jurisdiction to be supplied, which are contained in the Code of Canon Law. One of the reasons is simply that a person requests a certain priest to hear his confession. That suffices. Another reason is called common error. It happens when a person goes into a confessional thinking that the priest has jurisdiction, as would a person who is not traditional when he comes into a traditional church. Common error even exists when a penitent knows himself that the priest does not have jurisdiction, but the priest is hearing confessions in a Catholic Church. It is not based upon the penitent’s personal error, but upon the care of the Church for all its penitents. (Cf. Fr. Anglés, Supplied Jurisdiction of Traditional Priests, Angelus Press). Traditional convictions are consequently not necessary for jurisdiction to be supplied, for the Church supplies in many situations, in order to ensure the validity of the sacrament.

Are marriages in the extraordinary form valid even if one of the parties is not a traditional Catholic?

The ordinary, canonical form of marriage exists when the parish priest performs a marriage in the parish church of the bride. Traditional priests, not having any canonical appointment as parish priests, cannot perform marriages in this ordinary form. They have recourse to the extraordinary form of marriage, which is foreseen in Canon 1098 of the 1917 Code and Canon 1117 of the 1983 Code.

 The use of the extraordinary form requires that there be a difficulty in going to the parish priest who has jurisdiction, and that that difficulty last for more than one month. Such a difficulty is the use of the New Mass for the marriage ceremony, or a modernist sermon, or the very defective marriage preparation classes that are usually given, or the compromise of having a post-conciliar priest celebrate it according to the norms of the motu proprio of Benedict XVI. It suffices that one of the couple has such a difficulty, which is why traditional priests have the right to perform mixed marriages, in which one party is not Catholic. The same applies when one party is Novus Ordo.

However, just as traditional priests are very reluctant to perform mixed marriages, so also are they to perform a marriage between a Novus Ordo and a traditional Catholic. It is true that there is no canonical impediment, as in a regular mixed marriage. However, it is effectively like a mixed marriage, and is likely to have many problems. If the modern Catholic party refuses to become traditional, and to understand the overwhelming reasons in favor of our combat for Tradition, there is going to be a grave danger to the Faith of the traditional Catholic party and to that of the children. There is a good chance that the modern Catholic party will not assist at Mass with his family, nor pray together with them, nor teach them the true, unchanging catechism. The priest will have great difficulty in ruling out the danger of perversion of the Faith, which he must do, or such a marriage is against the divine law itself. The second reason is that the Novus Ordo party could later on dispute the validity of the marriage and obtain a false annulment for lack of canonical form. It is to avoid situations like these that traditional priests make both parties sign a form that they acknowledge that the marriage is valid according to the extraordinary form. However these forms are not necessary for the validity of the marriage.

Can a penitent alternate between a priest who has jurisdiction and another who does not?

The fact that a person occasionally goes to a priest who has jurisdiction for Confession does not mean that he does not have the right to use the supplied jurisdiction of traditional priests. There can be many reasons why he does so occasionally. A traditional Catholic can confess to a priest with jurisdiction for reasons of human respect, convenience or spiritual direction, or when he finds a priest with jurisdiction who is orthodox. Likewise a modern Catholic can for the same reasons confess to a priest without jurisdiction. It is not necessary to know about the crisis in the Church to receive a valid absolution from a priest in virtue of supplied jurisdiction. It is the Church’s precaution, in fact, to ensure that the sacramental absolution is always validly given. 

Does a priest commit sacrilege if he rushes through the celebration of Mass?

One must be careful about making accusations against priests of sacrilege because they celebrate Mass too rapidly or without due care in their pronunciation of the words. There can be many reasons why they give the impression of haste. Some priests are simply very nervous and scrupulous, and have difficulty without any fault of their own. They are trying hard to complete the Mass within the required 30 minutes. Others can have difficulties with the Latin or not pay so much attention to details, but it certainly does not mean that they do not have a strong faith or that they do not pay attention or that they recite the prayers of the consecration incorrectly. Frequently, those priests who pray the Mass rapidly are very careful about their pronunciation. Sometimes a priest will pray the Mass rapidly since he feels that it helps prevent him from having distractions. 

It has also to be remembered that there are varying degrees of sacrilege, and that even if a priest does celebrate rapidly or without very good pronunciation, it does not mean that it is serious neglect. A general rule given by the moral theologians is that the duration of a low Mass without sermon should not be less than twenty minutes.

In such questions, we should never forget that the real priest offering every Mass is Christ Himself, and it is upon His offering that the infinite value of the Mass depends. The ordained priest is but an instrument, with his human faults and weaknesses. Consequently, although he will always try to give the best possible example to the faithful, he must be regarded with patience and mercy, and although we of course like to hear priests celebrate Mass in great simplicity, without hurrying, pronouncing the Latin clearly and distinctly, it is also important for us not to presume to judge the faith and intentions of the priest.

Is it right for a priest to complete the words of absolution before the penitent has recited his act of contrition?

There are several parts of the formula of absolution that are not necessary for validity and that the priest can omit without sin for the sake of the faithful, for example when time is limited or there is a long line. This includes the Misereatur, the Indulgentiam and the Dominus Jesus Christus. In fact, all that is required for a valid absolution is the sacramental form itself: Deinde ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. This clearly does not take nearly as long to say as the act of contrition properly said. 

This being said, it is certainly recommended for the priest to recite the Misereatur and the Indulgentiam, just as it is recommended for the penitent to recite the Confiteor in Latin or the vernacular when he goes to Confession (but usually does not). The formula Dominus Jesus Christus that normally follows the Indulgentiam is an additional precaution, in case the penitent may have incurred a canonical censure without being aware of it or having forgotten to confess it. This precaution, required by the traditional rubrics, ensures the absolution of the censure before the remission of the sin. However, it is in fact very rare that there is such a censure. Consequently, except in those very rare cases, the omission of this phrase does not affect the validity of the Confession nor is it culpable. For example, it is not necessary for the Confession of children under 14 years of age, since they cannot incur a censure.

Consequently, a penitent should not be concerned if the confessor completes the absolution of his sins before he himself has completed the recitation of the act of contrition.