Yes. By both pre- Vatican II and post Vatican II history and criteria.
(We can argue licity or whether you should come to us as a separate point. “Valid” refers to “do the sacraments HAPPEN, “licit” refers to: “Is it in accord with the law of the Church or MORE importantly: Is it pleasing to God?)
This “valid question” is always an interesting one because it can come from very different concerns/motivations and sources. I’ll give you three examples of concerns/objections and answer each later below.
1. We have for example three sets of “snowbirds” who attend Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) chapels. Two of their priests know the history and are supportive and the third is suspicious- and understandably so, for reasons I will explain;
2. In another case we have a local guardian of a Traditional Catholic Shrine who thinks we’re invalid. Her founding priest used to receive Holy Oils from Our bishop, so her objection and distrust is a bit bewildering; and
3. An office of the local mainstream diocese answered a concerned parishioner with information from Wikipedia (which is edited by anyone) though at least one canonist with their diocese briefed one of the local pastors correctly. We had a very pleasant evening discussing it. We obviously have a communication issue and a large part falls on US.
Our reply to the concerns:
First we’ll address our friends from SSPX and I mean this very sincerely whether every priest of the Society reciprocates the friendship or not. Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, in my view, was perhaps the greatest of 20th C saints, and one day (unless Our Lord returns soon) will be recognized as such.
Every priest knows what is required for valid orders. Valid: form, matter and intention to do what the Church does. In the case of Holy Orders our form is the EXACT one used by the Society, unbroken from a pre-Vatican II line of apostolic succession. Matter: we have an unbroken line of succession to the “mainstream” pre-Vatican II RC Church, I don’t think there’s a dispute there. Intention: Our jurisdiction has the EXACT same intention of the Society. Exact. Right down to wanting full union juridically as well as administratively with Rome. I think where some of the confusion comes up is that all manner of fruitcake claims the name of our jurisdiction (we didn’t trademark it and now we pay the price). So when good priests hear strange stories, they are understandably misinformed or confused. To be clear: we hold and live all 20 doctrinal ecumenical councils of the Church and give Vatican II the assent, which is due, which mercifully is not much. My jurisdiction is under Archbishop J.J. Humphreys.
Most of the others using the name “Old Roman Catholic” only accept the first seven ecumenical councils, like the Orthodox. All those who did not ordain women are valid but we have a spectrum of closeness to Rome and desire to be one, juridically/administratively, as we already are theologically.
I don’t think our weak point is validity. I think if I were to question whether a mainstream Roman Catholic should attend one of our Masses, my question of greatest concern would be “schism”.
The other day I had a visitor ask “Are you schismatic”? And I surprised her when I answered: “It depends”.
Are you talking theologically or are you talking CIC 1983 (Canon Law)? If you are talking theologically, absolutely not. Both the pre-Vatican II Church and post Vatican II church recognized that Valid Orders with the INTENT to do what the Church does is what is shared by ONE CHURCH. (cf. Dominus Jesus, n.17). That’s why Polish National Church and Old Roman Catholics were considered valid but administratively separated. They are still part of the ONE Catholic Church BUT there is a dispute about the Anglican orders because of a change in both form and stated intention. So there you have valid line of succession prior to the Anglican break but a dubium about the subsequent form and intention. We are not directly subject to the CIC 1983, therefore we are not justly canonically schismatic either, but that is a different topic.
Cardinal Burke and Cardinal Muller have not been fans of the Society of Pius X (and if they don’t like the Society they certainly won’t like us). The irony of ironies is that Pope Francis has shown more welcome. So, I once in a Traditional priest’s online forum growled about Card Burke saying the Society was “schismatic”. When it was clear that this was NOT so. And the answer that came back to me from traditional mainstreamers was that he is a guardian of the current canon law and by that assessment all that is not administratively aligned with Francis is by definition “schismatic”. Well ok. I guess it depends on how you use the word. So now when I get the question about schism- I ask do they mean 1983’s Canon law or do they mean theologically. We do not INTEND or PRESUME to replace the Catholic hierarchy, we do not deny the Petrine Office or its primacy, therefore we are not schismatic.
It matters, because we all seek to do the Divine Will. If we are in THEOLOGICAL schism then it is a sin to be a part of our community and we should disband.
If on the other hand we are one of the preservers of the Catholic Faith (a different organ of the One True body) in a time of darkened intellect and will, then we should be supported.
I once gently corrected a “conservative” mainstream RC person on the Catholic Answers website who defined Catholic as meaning in full administrative union with Francis. He said SSPX and independents were “Protestant” and I quoted his own church documents to him. If you have valid succession, you’re part of the One True Church founded by Our Lord. Period. It’s not union with Francis Did they answer? No. They deleted the WHOLE POST. Which is unfortunately typical among the “Vatican II was awesome but hijacked” crowd. They can’t win the argument so they ignore, delete or deflect the questions.
“Thy Will be Done” is what the Our Father says and hopefully will continue to do so after the attempted edits….
And also Our Lord Himself tells us how to judge true from false teacher: By their fruits.
So at the beginning, I listed two other examples which I have now partially addressed because really any dispute about VALIDITY is about form, matter and intention.
There seems to be a phenomenon among Traditional Catholics to show initial hostility to priests. It’s a very uncatholic attitude. “I’m going to check you out”. Yes, you do that- and I shall check you out. It’s the tone I find more amusing than the words.
We have this new phenomenon where some Traditionals are traditional in terms of wanting the 1950 liturgy and custom but having a Baptist or other protestant ecclesiology. So they have these boards that interview priests. But they are getting it ALL WRONG. Where the bishop is, is the Church. You need a bishop not a vagus (priest w/o a bishop) priest.
Now before you think I’m being mean or too critical let me start by saying “I GET IT” you’ve had the Faith of Our Lord and the Saints ripped from us and priests going nuts in both doctrine and moral praxis. PLUS what if people put their hard earned resources into building a Church and have some fruitcake steal it? Also a priest can start out very good and “lose it”. This is why you need a jurisdiction. A Catholic Society or a prelature with defined Roman Catholic beliefs. If one priest turns ineffective or bad you petition his superior, his ordinary for another.
What is Roman Catholic??? I’ll tell you my working definition: 1) Believes in all 20 doctrinal ecumenical Councils (The last being Vatican I); 2) preserves valid succession; 3) In the Western Latin rite: Preserves the Gregorian Mass/ Mass of St Pius V as NORMATIVE and never to be abrogated; 4) Acknowledges the Petrine ministry and submits completely juridically/administratively to it when it aligns with the Doctrinal Councils. We cannot obey what is unjust/illicit to do. The idolatry (Pachamama etc), the moral praxis (ie lack of acceptance of Churches teaching on contraception and other moral issues where the “book” says one thing and the clergy and people believe another), the syncretism (errors on the nature of allah, and “God willing a diversity of religions”), the irreverence (novus ordo clown masses, Pope Francis refusing to kneel before the monstrance but kissing muslim feet). We’re not following any of that. If that makes some fool call us “invalid” or “schismatic” so be it. God bless and help you. God knows the heart and reality.
So returning to a lay person or board assessing my or any other priest’s validity.
As a former staffer at Ecclesia Dei (the department under John Paul II and Benedict XVI that dealt with the usage of the Traditional Mass in the new Church) says: “Lay people do NOT get to assess the validity of priest’s orders.” No, they don’t. Nor do priests w/o legitimate authority.
You may correctly and prudently QUESTION- and once you receive a reasonable answer- judge accordingly. But rushing to judgement without the facts isn’t justice. You know it, I know it; God knows it. People interested in facts pray, question and contemplate before judgement- correct?
It was the same Ecclesia Dei official I sought out when I investigated the very jurisdiction I serve. (He was a former professor at my seminary.)
A third kind of quandary/phenomena we have is our dealing with the mainstream Church. One of our jurisdictions has enjoyed FULL recognition by a mainstream diocese, though quietly. In another jurisdiction, we have a traditional but mainstream incardinated priest serving one of our parishes. My understanding is with the tacit approval of his bishop. Formerly the old abbot of a mainstream RC monastery extended the same thing- now under new leadership, that same monastery REFUSED to let the mainstream diocesan exorcist of another diocese say Mass in the chapel without a many paged set of documents certified from the chancery. Let alone us. It’s crazy.
I have met and sat down with three different priests of the local mainstream RC church and attended a funeral offered by another. Three of those priests offered warm welcome and the other was very respectful. One of those priests and I have exchanged resources and referred people to one another that would find our respective communities more spiritually fruitful.
One of those priests said he had me “checked out” with a canonist of the diocese and the answer was “He’s valid but not juridically regular, so in danger of death you may help one another with sacraments but not concelebrate”. And I answered,” Your canonist shares our understanding, and we as traditional Catholic priests do not concelebrate so there is no awkwardness there”. [Fun fact: a traditional priest only concelebrates on the day of his ordination. Each day we offer our own Mass]
Our constitution allows visiting clergy from different jurisdictions to sit in choir and we have had some mainstream RC clergy do just that. They join us in prayer for alignment of the institutional Church with the Faith they know.
There are good priests and bishops in the mainstream. Our local mainstream bishop is by all accounts a holy and wise man. He has our prayers and acknowledgment of his authority as diocesan bishop. We are a subset of the People of God who seek the Old Mass, the Old Faith and Catholic moral praxis. We mean no disrespect to any legitimate authority but must insist on our mission and resist the political machinations of today’s institutional Church which in practice is concerned more about social issues than the salvation of souls.
I have made reference to people and places without names and I will happily furnish the full stories if there is a real need to know- but I am not exposing folks to administrative rebuke or danger which is all too common in these times. Just ask Fr Vaughn Treco about how that machine can work.
Video of Fr Hess Explaining Validity in the context of Novus Ordo vs Tradition but the principles discussed are very relevant to this question.
Father Z “Are novus ordo priests valid?”
To be clear, our priests are ordained according to the pre-Vatican II rite but the concepts discussed are related.