Often the law, by giving a general rule of action, also provides for the exception which will undoubtedly occur, so much so that it is probable that certain circumstances prevent its application. But as the saying goes: the exception confirms the rule.
That is to say, far from annihilating the rule, the exception shows that to derogate from the law, special unusual conditions are necessary. Thus the law is promulgated for what normally happens and is intended to frame a situation in its usual exercise.
Now it seems that one can easily mistake the exception for the rule, as also one’s own desires for reality. One would be tempted this way by reading a few comments on the Roman provisions concerning us, concerning our marriages. The Roman document states that the normal rule is that it is not a priest of the Society of St. Pius X who receives the consent of the spouses attached to Tradition but a conciliar priest. The rule enacted by this legislative document is thus to deprive the priests of the Society of Saint Pius X of the possibility of receiving the consents of marriages of their faithful. It seems hardly an advantageous rule, but rather perilous to suggest that Rome recognizes our marriages, since it would do so insofar as we would not be involved, if I may say so.
Of course, the document also provides for the exception, which is well phrased as such: “in case of impossibility”. The faculty for a priest of the Society of Saint Pius X to receive a consent of marriage is actually foreseen, but on a marginal basis and after having forwarded the case to the diocesan bishop. This is to say the very embarrassing situation that will be created for both the families and the priests of the Society if such provisions are to be applied. Obviously it will be easy to draw attention to some bishops who will apply the law in the sense of the exception, but it must be remembered that an exception provided by law remains an exception. To rely on the exception when in fact the general law applies will always remain something fragile, uncertain and marginal. Not to mention that the legislator - all agree - legislates for a zealous application of Vatican II and tolerates Tradition only with reluctance, as can also be seen in this Roman document. By comparison, it should be noted that the “Ecclesia Dei” Commission has already taken over the Fraternity of Saint Peter and the IBP (Institue of the Good Shepherd) on their exclusive use of the Traditional Mass, a thing that is still written in their statutes and validated by the present Rome. If this authority can reconsider what it has agreed to ratify in the very statutes of an Institute, how can it not be expected that it will also be able to knock back an interpretation based on the exception?
Canon 1098 which we use for our marriages in the extraordinary form is related to the state of necessity. Yet all acknowledge that this state remains, or even worsens. It is therefore normal to use this canon as long as this crisis persists.
The duration of this frightful crisis of faith and morality does not depend on us, but gives us the right to habitually use the extraordinary form, without it being necessary to confront a certain bishop or parish priest. The state of necessity is not an exception, but the reality with which we are confronted. To act as if everything were going well in a state of crisis, would entail the practical negation of the state of necessity, and then the abandonment of the struggle of faith as is seen too often in the “Ecclesia Dei” circles. Consistency must be maintained between traditional principles and practice.
Similarly, prior to the introduction of the new Code of Canon Law, Archbishop Lefebvre could recommend recourse to the local parish priest to receive consents, but not so afterwards. For to make marriages depend on the new code of Canon Law (directly or indirectly) would be to endorse this dangerous code, stemming from the erroneous principles of Vatican II. Except as an exception. It’s always the same thing: the rule is not the exception! They are not reversed without serious detriment.
Fr. François-Xavier Camper, Prior (France)