The SSPX Marriage Affair: What’s It All About? (Part I)

The SSPX Marriage Affair: What’s It All About? (Part I)


“Benoit Parvulus”

May 19, 2017

[Google Translation]

On the 7th of May, a divergence appeared among the clergy of the Tradition. This dissension is beyond the scope of the SSPX alone, since the three superiors of the three communities usually used the sacred bishops of Bishop Lefebvre. The divergence, undoubtedly deep and ancient, certainly focused on the alteration of the relations between the movements faithful to Tradition and an ever more modernist Rome. This divergence was revealed in a Roman text published on April 4, dealing with the conditions of validity Marriages between faithful usually using the SSPX ministry.

As is often the case in these cases, the passions are inflamed, as can be seen from the regrettable reactions which took place during the Mass on Sunday, May 14th, in Saint-Nicolas du Chardonnet, following the brutal dismissal of the Abbot of La Rocque de His office as “parish priest”. Paradoxically, these passions seem to be stirred up by the very authorities of the SSPX, who, refusing to communicate on the substance of the problem in order to clarify it, deal only with the form of this dissension, acting as the sole pontificate of “revolutionary methods”. Wishing to go beyond this passionate context, I was enlightened by priests, including a canonist. They have corrected and annotated the lines below, although the last paragraphs remain entirely mine.

In this first article, I will address the question of marriage, leaving to later the even more sensitive question of the nature of the relations of the movements of Tradition with a Rome remaining anchored in modernism.


Marriage, between the natural institution and the sacrament

Of the seven sacraments founded by Christ, marriage is the only one in which our Lord took a pre-existing institution to elevate it to the rank of sacrament. From the Eucharist there was nothing before the Holy Thursday if not of the annunciating figures in the Old Testament, and thus of the other sacraments. But as for marriage, before being elevated to the rank of sacrament by Jesus Christ, it was instituted by God Himself at the time of creation. Marriage, therefore, is primarily a matter of natural law, in other words, the divine laws which God laid down in his created work.

Precisely because they come from God, no one can go against these natural laws. Thus, God did not contradict Himself, He Himself respected them when He transfigured human marriage to make it, among baptized, the effective sign of the love uniting Christ and His Church. In its turn, the Church had to respect the natural right of the faithful to marriage when, with the Council of Trent, it was to establish the canonical form of the sacrament of marriage. The Church knew that it did not have the power to limit excessively the natural right of the faithful to marriage by imposing conditions on its celebration which might make the use of this right difficult. And it is for this purpose that besides the canonical form of marriage, she also planned a celebration according to the extraordinary form. This can be found in the old code of canon law in canon 1098, in the code of 1983 in canon 1116.


Canonical form and extraordinary form of the sacrament of marriage

In order to avoid clandestine marriages which impeded the unity of marriage, the Council of Trent in its Tametsi decree imposed for the validity of the sacrament that the exchange of consents should henceforth be pronounced before at least two lay witnesses and one Priest having jurisdiction, namely the parish priest or a priest explicitly delegated by him for this purpose. Thus appeared what has since been called the canonical form of marriage.

Knowing, however, that it can not absolutely confine the sacrament of marriage within this binding framework without in some cases jeopardizing the natural right of its faithful to marriage – a right which it must respect – the Church adds that, Of grave inconvenience to resort to this canonical form, the future married couples are exempt from it. The Church then recognizes as valid and lawful the exchange of consents celebrated before the lay witnesses alone. However, if a priest can be present at this exchange of consent without canonical form, it must be present (CIC 1917, can. 1098 § 2). To this right of the faithful corresponds therefore a duty of the priest, of every priest, to attend this exchange of consents. He then attended as his first witness, without having any jurisdiction for that, whether ordinary, delegated or substitutes.

Concerning the use of this extraordinary form of the sacrament of marriage, voices were heard during the preparation of the Second Vatican Council to restrict its use. They wished to condition him to a prior recourse to the Ordinary, in other words, to the diocesan bishop. But the Church considered that to put this new condition to the use of the extraordinary form was contrary to the very reason of the latter, namely the respect of the natural right of the faithful to marriage. This request was rejected and the right of the Church in its reform of 1983 retained the norms of the old canon 1098, which became Canon 1116. This refusal of modification amounts to recognizing that no Ordinary, He is ordinary of the place (diocesan bishop) or Ordinary religious (Superior General or Superior General of a congregation), can not claim to have control over this natural right of the faithful.


Marriages in the Tradition and the case of conscience of the priests

For all the faithful who habitually use the priests of the SSPX or equivalent, the serious disadvantage allowing the use of the extraordinary form for the marriage is quite obvious. It was in the usual way that they felt obliged to protect themselves from an ecclesiastical authority whose ministry seriously undermines the good of the faith. Moreover, both the “authorized comment” published by the General House of the SSPX and the “letter to the faithful” of the seven deans acknowledge this state of necessity, albeit in different terms. It seems to be recognized by all the clergy of Tradition, whatever the nature of the divergences, the right of the faithful to use the extraordinary form of marriage.

The novelty brought by the “permissible comment” of the Generalate is to make the use of this right depend on the faithful to have recourse to the bishop of the place. The authorities of the FSSPX intend to ask their priests to use the extraordinary form only after having demanded a delegated jurisdiction from the local bishop. This comment indicates it twice: “There is no need to resort to a state of necessity … unless the bishop [of the place] opposes the new provisions by refusing the requested delegation [ By the priests of the SSPX]. And a little further on: “No doubt that, if the Ordinary refused and appointed a delegated priest, [v] and to grant the necessary faculties directly to the priest of the Fraternity, he would validly celebrate Virtue of this state of necessity. “

From the point of view of the law, the provisions which the General House of the SSPX intends to impose on its priests, and moreover through an unsigned text and therefore of no legal value, are contrary to the general law of the Church . The pressure exerted in this direction by his priests seems therefore to amount to an abuse of power, the Superior General arrogating to himself a power which he does not have, namely to make the use of the extraordinary form of marriage Of a prior recourse to the Ordinary, which the universal Church refused to do in its right.



In this respect, the letter of the seven deans of France may take on a different tone. Rather than being regarded as a subversive revolt against their superiors, these seven deans would only say the present state of necessity, recall the right which ensues for the faithful for the use of the Form an extraordinary form of marriage, and renew their commitment to correspond to this right, as explicitly requested of them by the Church (CIC 1983 Can. 1116 §2).

The seven deans, in all respect for the authorities of the FSSPX, not mentioned in their text, would have made the choice of obedience to the canonical norms of the Church rather than an anonymous text emanating from their General House, In the face of the pressure that ensued in praxis.

The virulent reaction of the authorities of the SSPX, as probably the letter of the seven deans, suggests that the issue is not limited to the question of marriages. Undoubtedly the Roman authorities have used this practical question of marriages in Tradition as a general rehearsal of a potential canonical recognition of the SSPX in personal prelature. Therefore, through the letter of the deans on the one hand, the reaction of the authorities of the SSPX on the other hand, there are two radically different visions which would be opposed as to the nature of the relations to be with the Rome of today ‘hui. The exposition of this second divergence will undoubtedly be the subject of a next article.

Benoit Parvulus



1 The canonical form of marriage is to be distinguished from the sacramental form of marriage. The latter is the exchange of consents, while the canonical form covers the legal conditions for the exchange of consents, otherwise it would be considered invalid.

2. Before the Council of Trent, somebody in bad faith could, for example, marry validly but secretly, and then contract another marriage with great pomp, which appeared to be the first, and therefore valid, It was not. This problem, which was classical before the Council of Trent, makes the intrigue of Chevalier Didaco and his wife Violente, with the Italian Matteo Brandello (I, 42) and the Frenchman Pierre Boaistuau (5th tragic story).

3. There is therefore a lack of precision and a small canonical error when, in the number of articles or interventions emanating from the Tradition, the substitute court is called upon to receive consents of marriage in extraordinary form.

4. On this point, the “Letter to the faithful” of the seven deans of France is in fact true, in fact only taking note in his note 9 of the very detailed study by André Sale, La forma straodinaria e il minro Della celebrazione del matrimonio secondo il codice latino e orientale, Editions Pontificia Universita Gregoriana, Rome 2003

5. This text remains vague as to this delegated priest: is it a priest of Tradition, a diocesan priest, a priest Ecclesia Dei? Nothing is said.