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.



Posted on February 2, 2013, in Catholicism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I’ve never confessed to an SSPX priest. But please explain: what’s the reason that a dying person shouldn’t confess to an SSPX priest and such a person should confess to an Orthodox priest or a protestant vicar? (Sorry that my English is not so goed, I hope it’s clear what I mean.
    And why the SSPX is not permitted to use a Roman Catholic church for its celebrations while the orthodox churches are permitted to celebrate in a Roman catholic church building. They are all the same schismatic…

    • Ancilla,

      as far as I know, a dying person can confess to an SSPX priest, but this is a particular case that does not apply to most of us. The same, always as far as I know, for an Orthodox priest who has Holy Orders.

      The Proddie vicar is a layman, and can therefore not a priest, what ever he may think he is.

      The SSPX is NOT (the emphasis here is on the word NOT) Schismatics. They are as Catholics as they come. The Church has never declared them in schism, and I am very curious to know what arguments would they use if they ever dared to do so. The SSPX does in everything what the Church pre- V II did. If the Vatican were to declare them in schism, they would condemn 2000 years of Church before V II. The only result they would obtain is a huge increase in sedevacantism.

      I wouldn’t be worried.

      Who is allowed to use what depends at times from the madness of local priest, and the cowardice of the local bishops. There are priests allowing church structures to be used by Muslims. Go figure..


  2. Humble with clarity and air-tight logic–that’s you, Mundabor. You are a great teacher of the blogosphere.

    • Many thanks, Akita-ette!

      More properly perhaps, I am a sinner whose fear of the day of judgment moves him to deepen the matter. Like many others, I oscillate between the reasonable hope so typical of my ancestors and the fear I live in such a rotten environmetn that the day I die I’ll discover I am far more rotten than I thought, and should have known better anyway.

      By the way, I have to go to confession, too.. 😉


  3. Thanks for the answer, my peace of mind is back again, I was afraid that a dying person could not confess to an SSPX priest.
    It’s very important that these things are cleared up and explained to people every time.

  4. Mundabor,

    actually I had similar thoughts in recent years in a (typical) V II mass but more with regards to whether transubstantiation is really taking place. In certain cases I have my serious doubts, regardless of whether the priest has valid orders. The thought of that the “devil uses bad priests to lead us to doubt the institutions and the sacraments of the Church” is strikingly logical to me and but very scary at the same time. It could make a lot of sense when thinking about the inner conflicts traditional Catholics have to endure these days when attending Holy Mass.
    What about Holy Communion? Would you receive the body of Christ in a SSPX mass? I would be very interested in your opinion on this.

    Kind regards, wk1999

    • wk1999,

      I think the transubstantiation takes place (and we can rely on it) whenever the priest does what he is supposed to do. If there are liturgical abuses like, say, earthen vessels, I think one can already doubt; if the Mass is a clown mass one should certainly doubt. The SSPX say in their books and articles the consecration could not happen just because the priest does not believe in the transubstantiation; this is not the way things were taught to me, though, and I do not believe this is correct.

      I would certainly receive communion at a SSPX mass as I believe they have valid orders and can validly effect the consecration. The confession is different because – always AFAIK, and it seems to me the linked article from Father Z confirms the concept – a priest can have valid orders, celebrate a valid mass etc. but no authorisation to hear confessions, unless a grave motive is there.

      Si sbalio mi corigerete… 😉


  5. I don’t understand why the Mundabor and Father Z bloggers spend so much time arguing about the legitimacy of the sacraments, and particularly confession administered by SSPX.

    This is akin to arguing about how many angels can sit on the head of a pin.

    Why can’t we all agree that in fact there is a schism in this church. There are those who not only insist that the Eucharist be celebrated in a dead language, but furthermore sincerely believe that the Vatican Council II was not a real Council and that therefore any of its teachings can be ignored with impunity. On the other hand there are those who are following and will continue to follow the 2nd Vatican Council’s teachings.

    It is time for the adherents of either side to realize that the one that will never convince the other by any means. My old moral theology professor was very big on dialogue. But God rest his soul, he would look at this situation and have to say “impossible a dialoger, absolument

    George McCartin

    • We can’t agree that there is a schism, because there isn’t one.

      The SSPX is being obedient to the Pope in everything which does not conflict with their superior loyalty to God.

      This does not make of them Schismatic, but Catholics.

      As to the angels on the head of a pin (a Protestant imagery I do not like), confession is important because confession is a very important sacrament, vital in the economy of salvation. Therefore, all questions about confession are just as important. I personally will continue to go to confession to a (probably very inadequate, at times fully idiotic and deluded) “Vatican II” priest because I think his absolution is valid and, like the SSPX priests, I am always loyal until I see a state of necessity and I see no necessity to confess to a SSPX priest.

      Lastly, concerning V II, I never heard of “teachings” of Vatican II. I know Christian teachings. If what V Ii says is in harmony with them, it is no new teaching. If it goes against what the Church has always believed, it is no teaching at all and ignoring it is a duty.


      P.s. you don’t seem much of a priest to me, either.. perhaps I’m wrong and you really are one, in this case I’d say you should put it in your Facebook page and dress accordingly.

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