Protocol 539/99

N. 539/99 Rome, 28 September 1999

Mr. Joseph E. Rebbert
10024 Piebald Lane
Arizona 86327

Dear Mr. Rebbert,
We wish to acknowledge receipt of your letter to His Eminence Cardinal
Ratzinger. It has been transmitted to this Pontifical Commission as dealing
with matters that come within our particular competence.
With regard to the schismatic Society of St. Pius X we can say the
1. The priests of the Society of St. Pius X are validly ordained,
but suspended, that is prohibited from exercising their priestly functions
because they are not properly incardinated in a diocese or religious
institute in full communion with the Holy See (cf. canon 265) and also
because those ordained after the schismatic episcopal ordinations were
ordained by an excommunicated bishop. They are also excommunicated if
they adhere to the schism (cf. Ecclesia Del, #5, c). While up to now the
Holy See has not defined what this .adherence consists in, one could point
to a wholesale condemnation of the Church since the Second Vatican Council
and a refusal to be in communion with it (cf. canon 751 on the definition
of schism). Further, it is likely that these priests, after eleven years
in a society whose head is now an excommunicated bishop, effectively adhere
to the schism. . .
2. Concretely this means that the Masses offered by the priests of
the Society of St. Pius X are valid, but illicit i.e., contrary to Canon
Law. The Sacraments of Penance and Matrimony, however, require that the
priest enjoys the faculties of the diocese or has proper delegation. Since
that is not the case with these priests, these sacraments are invalid. It
remains true, however, that, if the faithful are genuinely ignorant that the
priests of the Society of St. Pius X do not have the proper faculty to
absolve, the Church supplied these faculties so that the sacrament was valid
(cf. Code of Canon Law c. 144).
3. The situation of the faithful attending chapels of the Society of
St. Pius X is more complicated. They may attend Mass there primarily
because of an attraction to the earlier form of the Roman Rite in which
case they incur no penalty. The difficulty is that the longer they
frequent these chapels, the more likely it is that they will slowly imbibe
the schismatic mentality which stands in judgement of the Church and
refuses submission to the Roman Pontiff and communion with the members of
the Church subject to him. If that becomes the case, then it would seem
that they adhere to the schism and are consequently excommunicated.
For these reasons this Pontifical Commission cannot encourage you
to frequent the chapel of the Society of St. Pius X. On the other hand it
would seem that you are among those who attend Mass in chapels
of the Society of St. Pius X because of the
reverence and devotion which they find there, because of their
attraction to the traditional Latin Mass and not because
they refuse submission to the Roman Pontiff or reject communion with the
members of the Church subject to him. At the same time it must be admitted
that – this is an irregular situation, even if the circumstances which have
caused it have come about through no fault of your own, and it should be
remedied as soon as circumstances permit.
With prayerful best wishes I remain
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Msgr. Camille Perl