Asked Questions About the Society of Saint Pius X
9: Do traditional priests have
In virtue of his ordination, a priest
can bless all things and even consecrate bread and wine in such
wise that they become the very Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus
Christ. But whenever in his ministry he has to deal authoritatively
with people, he needs, over and above the power of Orders, that
of Jurisdiction, which empowers him to judge and rule his
flock. Jurisdiction is, moreover, necessary for the validity itself
of the sacraments of penance and matrimony.
the sacraments were given by Our Lord as the ordinary and principal
means of salvation and sanctification. The Church, therefore, whose
supreme law is the salvation of souls (1983 Code of Canon Law,
canon 1752), wants the ready availability of these sacraments,
and especially penance (canon 968). The Church wants priests (canon
1026) and empowers them liberally to hear confessions (canon 967,
§2). This jurisdiction to hear confessions is to be revoked only
for a grave reason (canon 974, §1).
is ordinarily given by mandate from the Pope or diocesan Bishop,
or perhaps delegated by the parish priest. The priests of the Society
of Saint Pius X do not have jurisdiction in this way. Extraordinarily,
however, the Church supplies jurisdiction without passing by the
constituted authorities. This is foreseen in the 1983 Code of
- when the
faithful think the priest has a jurisdiction which he does not
have (canon 144) [common error],
- when there
is a probable and positive doubt that the priest has jurisdiction
- when a priest
inadvertently continues to hear confessions once his faculties
have expired (canon 142, §2), and
- when the
penitent is in danger of death (and then even if the priest is
laicised or an apostate, even though a Catholic priest is at hand)
(canons 976, 1335).
the Church, wanting the ready availability of penance, extraordinarily
supplies jurisdiction in view of the needs of her children, and
it is granted all the more liberally the greater their need.
the nature of the present crisis in the Church is such that the
faithful can on good grounds feel it a moral impossibility to approach
priests having ordinary jurisdiction. And so, whenever the faithful
need the graces of penance and want to receive them from priests
whose judgment and advice they can trust, they can do so, even
if the priests do not ordinarily have jurisdiction. Even a suspended
priest can do this for the faithful who ask: "for any just
cause whatsoever" (canon 1335). This is even more the case
if a faithful Catholic can foresee his being deprived of the true
sacrament of penance from priests with ordinary jurisdiction until
he dies. Only God knows when this crisis will end.
extraordinary form for marriages is foreseen in canon 1116, §1.
If the couple cannot approach their parish priest "without
serious inconvenience"—and they may consider as such his insistence
on having the Novus Ordo Missae for the wedding, or their
apprehensions concerning his moral teaching in marriage instructions—and
if they foresee these circumstances to last for at least a month,
then they can marry before witnesses alone, and another priest (e.g.,
of the Society of Saint Pius X) if possible (canon 1116, §2).
if one were to consider the above arguments as only probable, then
jurisdiction would still be certainly supplied by the church (canon
144). And so we must answer affirmatively. Traditional priests do
have a jurisdiction that is neither territorial nor personal but
supplied in view of the needs of the faithful.
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