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A Filipino Archdiocese to the SSPX: "You remain excommunicated in conscience because of doctrinal error"

The Archdiocese of Davao, one of the largest dioceses of the Philippines, has been involved in an acrimonious public debate with the Society of St. Pius X in the past several weeks -- a story that will be told in full in the next few days here on Rorate. For now, we present to our readers the latest open letter of the Archbishop of Davao to the SSPX. (Click on the images to be able to read them. A transcription of the letter has been added to this post, below the images.)

The following is a transcription of the letter:


P.N. 569/2011
08 November 2011

Priests of the Society of Saint Pius X
# 9 Carpio Subdivision
Buhangin Road, Davao

Dear Father Laisney:

As the Archbishop of Davao and duly appointed shepherd of the Catholic faith of this local church I would like to remind you again of a basic and fundamental principle from the Code of Canon Law . This principle must regulate and guide our priestly ministry.

I am writing this reminder as from a friend and gentleman to another. This reminder is also directed to your Society here in Davao City and through you to some of our people who have innocently sought your ministerial services.

This fundamental principle is the authentic right and authority to minister here. If you then are validly ordained as priest you have this right undoubtedly. But without genuine authorization or approval from me as Archbishop and Local Ordinary, you cannot, and are not allowed, to exercise that right within my jurisdiction and territory. You do not have the canonical faculty or permit which can only be given in writing by me.

I assume that you know very well that priests not canonically incardinated in our Diocese must have required written faculty to minister here. You also very well know that even transient priests, who are not irregular, need to present a celebret or certification from their own bishop or superior when they come here to preside in liturgical celebration or administer the Sacraments. This you do not have. And even if you ask I cannot grant it because you do not have the canonical status.

The reason for this has already been given and explained by our Holy Father, pope Benedict XVI in his Papal Letter on the Society of Saint Pius X dated 12 March 2009. In reference to this point he clearly stated:

“The fact that the Society of Saint Pius X does not possess a canonical status in the Church is not, in the end, based on disciplinary but on doctrinal reasons. As long as the Society does not have a canonical status inside the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministry in the Church.”

It is very clear that you cannot exercise legitimately your priestly right to minister our Church territory or Diocese. And the reason - which perhaps you failed to explain to our people -- is the grave error in doctrine committed by your Society against the authority of the Pope and the Vatican Council, a serious offense and crime against the unity of the Church, our unfortunate schism.

On this point I wonder why you did not explain to others that there are two types of excommunication: ipso facto or automatic (latae sententiae) and sub judice or under investigation (ferendae sententiae). Of course I can understand why you could not and did not explain that because of automatic excommunication which does not need official Church declaration you still remain excommunicated in conscience because of doctrinal error. This is the reason why you and your Society do not have canonical Status.

To push argument further, especially for the benefit of the lay people, this point means that you and your Society are not in the approved list of recognized ministers and society within the Church. No amount of reasoning, like the perceived necessity, the appeal to the people, the “salvation of souls”, the Good Samaritan Metaphor can confer ordinary jurisdiction or grant authorization to you except the local bishop. And you cannot apply one canonical provision and violate another in your argumentation.

Please, pardon me for saying that the logical consequence of the above points I presented is that as illegitimate minister you are intruding without permission into our communities and misleading our people. As official shepherd of the flock I cannot help saying that you are trespassing our private domain, sneaking into our fold and snatching away like wolves in sheep’s clothing our innocent sheep. (Mt 7:15)

As chief shepherd of the local flock I am aware of my own shortcomings and limitation and those of my clergy, religious and lay faithful. Yes, there are lapses and questionable practices and behavior in the liturgical, pastoral and moral lives in our communities. We are not ignoring them. They make us humble and conscious of God’s mercy and forgiveness, and encourage us to struggle for authenticity and credibility. Our Archdiocesan Liturgical Center under Fr. Joel Caasi will in due time prepare our people to celebrate the Missa Extraordiaria in Latin with propriety and dignity when needed.

I have to say this as spiritual leader and ultimately responsible to God and the Pope for the welfare of the flock entrusted to me. I am sorry I don’t enjoy and relish this public exchange of open letters which you provoked. But I am sure our people- priests, religious, laity especially the Latin Mass Society- will respond to your misleading statements in due time and in the appropriate manner.

With every good wish and prayer, I remain;

Your friend and brother in Christ,

(Sgd.) Fernando R. Capalla
Archbishop of Davao