Confession To An SSPX Priest?
There is a truly beautiful post on Father Z’s blog about the validity of confession from an SSPX priest. You already know yours truly is a great fan of the organisation, and considers them better Catholics than your average Cardinal (let alone bishop) by a mile. Still, I try not to descend into Sedevacantism only because of the obscenely bad quality of the clergy in good standing I (more than) sometimes see around me, and one of the reasons I go around and regularly “try” different churches is to hammer into my head that even the bad Mass is a valid Mass and even the stupid priest has valid orders; then if I were to start questioning the validity of the Mass according to the quality of the priest, Sedevacantism would not be far away.
The same reasoning, and the same praxis, I apply to confession. I “shop around” to take the temperature of the local Church: are people there queuing? Is the priest timely? )(Ha!) Is the confessional a traditional one? Does the priest encourage me to repentance or – as many do – to complacency? & Co., & Co.
Many of the priests who have confessed me in the last five years have left me with a strange feeling to say the least. Like eating artificial food, or drinking Diet Coke. Still, as long as the priest says the absolution formula and I can see he is doing what the Church says he should be doing I never doubted (though at times it didn’t come natural, see below) that the confession and the absolution were validly given; even in those cases in which I thought the priest was a waste of space, a robbery of Church bread, and arms stolen to agricultural work.
For the exact same reason, I never went to confession at a SSPX chapel. It’s not that I do think the priest confessing there is a bad priest (I think his chances of heaven are, in fact, extremely high, and I seriously can’t say the same of a couple of confessors I have experienced), but rather that whilst this priest has a granitic conviction he must do it, I know and cannot pretend not to know he is not authorised to hear confessions. This is unfortunate, then I do have more than a mild curiosity to experience the difference with your average V II priest, not knowing whether a torrential rain of fire and brimstone would fall unto me or whether, as it is traditionally said, the priest who is a lion from the pulpit is also a lamb in the confessional.
One thing is clear to me: even if I had doubts about the validity of the confession of many priests of the V II church, I would still go to confession to a priest of the V II, because even the V II church is my church, and the only one there is.
As I have said, this doesn’t come natural to me. A couple of times, I must admit, I was tempted to think: “this was not a confession, this was a joke; I’d better repeat it somewhere else as soon as I can”, but then I immediately reflected about the gravity of my thought, and started to realise the devil uses bad priests to lead us to doubt the institutions and the sacraments of the Church; then again, if I start to think I can decide whether a confession was valid – even if the usual and expected elements of the confession were there – Sedevacantism can’t be very far away.
This does not mean that the SSPX priest is a bad priest, as he believes the state of necessity does extend to confession. But I simply cannot agree with him on that, and whilst I am rather sure he’ll rank far higher than me in Paradise (if I make it there) I do not think going to confession to him would help me one iota in this respect.