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Arrow Question / Issue:

"Our pastor introduced a priest to our parish. Investigation of this priest finds that his faculties were suspended... So a priest without faculties performed Masses, Confessions, marriages, baptisms... His Confessions, Baptisms, marriages, are all illegal and the parish should notify those people involved."

 

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Thank you for letting us know about the problem at your parish. We commend you for your concern and willingness to seek remedies for this problem. It is always good to know that Catholics are concerned about abases, rather than the apathy that is unfortunately so frequent.

Regarding this matter, we have consulted with a priest who was able to confirm the following...

* Baptisms are not invalidated automatically due to a priest being suspended (even a Jew can validly baptize, if the baptism itself is conducted properly)

* The suspended priest's Masses may have been valid, but illicit (e.g. Consecration occurred if the proper form / matter was used & the intent was proper – although the action of the priest was "illegal")

* Confessions by a suspended priest who was 'authorized' to hear confessions may not be automatically invalid (see below)

* Marriages may not automatically be invalidated due to a priest being suspended [remember that marriage is one sacrament that the couple confers upon each other, although a proper minister is required to witness the marriage (the Church may even allow this to be done by a deacon)]

Please recall that the power of orders can never actually be removed, although it may be illicit to use those powers (e.g. when a priest's faculties are suspended). A good example might be Martin Luther – even after his fall he could still validly (although illicitly) celebrate Mass since he was invested with priestly power.

It is important to keep in mind that there is a distinction between invalid (not valid at all) and illicit (valid but "illegal"). From what I read in your comments, it appears to me that what happened was illicit, but not invalid. (If I am not missing anything.) If I am correct, that would mean that those baptized with the proper form/matter were still baptized, those properly married without impediments on the part of either party were validly married, etc. The sin here is on the part of the priest, not the unknowing laity. (Of course, the above assumes that the priest knew of his suspension, but the laity involved did not know of the priest's suspension. If they did, I think it's possible this might/could change the validity of some items, but you'd have to consult proper authorities in the Church to be sure.) However, if this priest used improper form / matter, sacraments could be/would be invalid (depending on the nature of the defect – some defects are not so serious as to invalidate while others are).

Given the particulars of the situation, it seems that the Church would need to determine whether sacraments were valid or not. Of course, if sacraments were not valid, we agree that all persons involved should be notified at once. If the sacraments were in fact valid, it may not be strictly necessary to specifically notify all people (although I, personally, would want to know about it if I was involved because one certainly might have some reasonable concerns regarding the priest's intention – and proper intention IS required for validity). The people should not be personally guilty of sin unless they knew that the priest was exercising his powers without authority. If anyone did know that the priest was exercising his powers without authority, however, they would be guilty of sin, as the Baltimore Catechism teaches...

"Bishops, priests and other ministers of the Church cannot exercise the power they have received in Holy Orders unless authorized and sent to do so by their lawful superiors. The power can never be taken from them, but the right to use it may be withdrawn for causes laid down in the laws of the Church, or for reasons that seem good to those in authority over them. Any use of sacred power without authority is sinful, and all who take part in such ceremonies [e.g. knowingly / culpable negligence] are guilty of sin."

We are not canon lawyers, but we thought you might find the following information taken from the Vatican's website interesting. The canon below is from the 1983 Code of Canon Law...

Can. 1335 If a censure prohibits the celebration of sacraments or sacramentals or the placing of an act of governance, the prohibition is suspended whenever it is necessary to care for the faithful in danger of death. If a latae sententiae censure has not been declared, the prohibition is also suspended whenever a member of the faithful requests a sacrament or sacramental or an act of governance; a person is permitted to request this for any just cause.

In any event, to determine 'for certain' whether a particular sacrament was valid or not, it would be necessary for the Church to look into the matter. You might start by contacting the diocese for assistance.

Further, we thought you might also be interested in the following pages on our site. They contain information from traditional catechisms, saint quotes, popes, etc. Perhaps they may be useful. Click links to view...

* Baptism

* The Holy Eucharist / Mass

* Matrimony

* Penance / Confession

We also recommend that you review information on the Sacraments Q & A page here as this page discusses issues such as...

* What is Necessary for a Valid Sacrament?

* Are There Some Occurrences Which Might Invalidate a Sacrament?

* Does an Unworthy Minister Invalidate the Sacrament?

* What Can Be Done if a Sacrament is Abused?

* Etc.

There is also a traditional document (De Defectibus) which specifically deals with defects in Mass that you might find interesting. It can be found here.

Finally, you may find helpful information regarding the priesthood here.

We hope the above may assist you with this issue.

[Please Note: The above obviously assumes the suspended priest had a valid ordination. A man not validly ordained is not a priest and could NOT validly celebrate Mass or hear Confessions.]


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Other Resources:

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Sacraments (Topic Page)

Priests (Topic Page)

 

  

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