Q. 1. My friend, a Catholic, is considering attending the Holy Mass of a group that claims to be Catholic, that has proven apostolic succession, but is not in harmony with the Vatican. It is my understanding that the religious Orders of the priest are invalid and as such, the Holy Mass would be invalid. Can you clarify this?
A. 1. First of all, let me explain, for the Ordination to be valid, three conditions must be met. These are:
1.1 There must be an apostolic succession. This means that the laying of the hands on the head of the priest during his ordination has to be traced to the Apostles who received their priestly authority direct from Jesus.
1.2 The ordination of the priest must be administered correctly. This means that the Bishop said all the essential words that are necessary for the priesthood to be valid as instituted by Jesus.
1.3 The priest is in full communion with Rome.
If the three above conditions are met, a priest is validly ordained and his Orders are licit (legal). He is in good standing with the Church and he can administer the Sacraments in accordance to the teachings of the Church.
If # 2 is not met, the priest is not validly ordained and his administration of the Sacraments is not valid.
If conditions 1.1 or 1.3 are not met, the priest is validly ordained but his Orders are illicit (illegal). Since he is not in good standing with the Catholic Church, he cannot administer the Sacraments in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church.
This position can be compared to that of Adam and Eve. Through sin, both were expelled from Paradise. while they remained as children of God, sinful ones, they lost their ability to see and talk with God in person on a daily basis. They lost some privileges. Similarly, the priest who does not wish to submit himself to the Vatican, while his ordination is valid, he is expelled from the Church and he no longer has the faculty (authorization) to represent the Church before God on behalf of Catholics.
It should be stated that most dissident priests who separate themselves from the Catholic Church, it is because of heresies, they not agreeing with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Once separated, they change the liturgy to their own whims, such invalidating the liturgy and the Sacraments, over and above creating a schism.
According to Saint Thomas, "Heretics, schismatics and excommunicates have been forbidden by the Church's sentence to perform the Eucharistic rite. And therefore, whoever hears their Mass, or receives the sacraments from them, commits sin."
The Code of Canon Law # 1258 states: "The faithful are not allowed to assist actively in any way, or to take active part in the religious services of non-Catholics." Those who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church cannot call themselves Catholics. They are non-Catholics, even if they state otherwise.
The active participation in non-Catholic worship "is simply a denial of the Catholic faith, and a recognition of an unorthodox form of worship."
By worshipping God at a Church that is not in full communion with the Vatican, you worship God falsely, since you "mingle errors and deception with the worship of the true God."
As a result of the above, you are suspected of heresy. "Whoever acts contrary to the prescriptions of Canon # 1258 and takes part in non-Catholic services, even if the service is one that heretics have in common with us, is suspected of heresy. “One who cooperates communicatio in sacris contrary to the provision of Canon 1258 is suspected of heresy.” (Old Catholic Canon Law # 2316)
In conclusion, while the Orders of a priest who is not in good standing with the Catholic Church may be valid or invalid, his administration of the Sacraments being illicit, he or she who participates in the administration of such Sacraments, risks loosing his or her soul. The Catholic Church condemns the actions of those who divide the Body of Christ.