Cardinal Burke Speaks about SSPX Marriages and a Personal Prelature

April 17, 2017
Source: District of the USA
Cardinal Burke sitting for an interview with InfoVaticana

In a recent interview Cardinal Raymond L. Burke commented cautiously but favorably about provisions made by the Vatican towards the SSPX.

Cardinal Burke opined about the development from Rome allowing Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) priests to witness marriages as well as the Society’s prospects of having a Personal Prelature. 

On the Question of the Society’s Marriages

At the conclusion of a wide-ranging interview that was published online by InfoVaticana on April 10, Gabriel Ariza began the conversation by stating, “The Pope made a statement that from now on, the weddings celebrated by the priests from the FSSPX are going to be recognized.”

Cardinal Burke, a canon lawyer who from 2008 to 2014 headed the Apostolic Signatura, the highest tribunal in the Catholic Church, responded politely: “I did not read that yet,” implying that the interviewer was describing in very broad terms one ultimate goal of negotiations between the Vatican and the Society of Saint Pius X.

In a major step toward that goal, on April 4, 2017, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a letter authorizing diocesan bishops “to grant faculties for the celebration of marriages of the faithful who follow the pastoral activity of the Society,” if possible, to a priest of the diocese “so that the priest may receive the consent of the parties during the marriage rite.” The celebration of Mass by an SSPX priest would then follow. If no diocesan priest is able to receive the consent of the parties, “the Ordinary may grant the necessary faculties to the priest of the Society who is also to celebrate the Holy Mass, reminding him of the duty to forward the relevant documents to the Diocesan Curia as soon as possible” (emphasis added).

Despite the clear preference in the CDF letter for a diocesan priest as a witness of a marriage, Burke acknowledged:

This is a very significant action of the Holy Father, and it also indicates that in some way there must be a reconciliation of the FSSPX, because basically what the Pope is saying is that the priests in this Society, when they witness marriages, are exercising jurisdiction in the Roman Catholic Church. So that is very interesting.”

Personal Prelature and Reconciliation with Rome

The interviewer followed up with the question: “Do you think the personal prelature is a good way [to bring about] the reconciliation?” Cardinal Burke replied: “I believe it could be a very effective way for the reconciliation.”

“Would it be great news?” the interviewer asked.

Yes. I pray for it, and I hope that it will come about. But the reconciliation of course has to be based on a common understanding. We cannot just simply will it. In other words, if there is not a common understanding, what we reconcile will result in all sorts of conflicts and difficulties. We have to make sure that there it is a common understanding in regard to all the questions which, in the past, the FSPPX has had about the Church, the Holy See and the direction of the Catholic Church.”

Commentary from the SSPX

Commenting on this CDF document, the SSPX General House declared:

Anyone can see the skillful way the power to confess or receive marriage vows is granted; in other words, the way the ministry of the priests of an irregular ecclesiastical society – at least ad casum – is regularized.” 

And earlier this year, commenting on a possible regularization Bishop Bernard Fellay commented:

The problem is not with this structure that they are offering us. If that was the only issue, we would say 'yes' in a heartbeat. But it is not the problem.

The problem is, once again, this battle of ideas. Is a Church that for 40 years has imposed a way of thinking, this modernist way of thinking against which we fight, against which, or because of which we were even declared schismatic and everything else, outside of the Church; is this Church ready, yes or no, to let us continue on our path?”

Cardinal Burke is one of the four cardinals who submitted to Pope Francis five dubia or questions for clarification concerning Amoris laetitia, the Apostolic Exhortation that was written after the recent Synods on the Family. To date Pope Francis has not answered the dubia, nor has he granted an audience to Cardinal Burke since November 2016.

Source: InfoVaticana, DICI