His Holiness Pope Francis has issued an Apostolic Letter for the close of the Year of Mercy. It is 6600 words long (excluding notes) and it is called Misericordia et misera, a phrase taken from Augustine’s commentaries on the Gospel of John. It has a Latin title, but the document was not released in Latin. There appears not to be a Latin version. As usual for this pontificate. It just so happens that the Latin title results from a quote in Latin.
In any event, the big news in this Letter is that the Pope extended the opportunity to people to go to confession to priests of the SSPX beyond the Year of Mercy.
He also gave all priests the faculty to absolve the sin of abortion.
The two concessions are worded in different ways. Let’s see. He has ben talking about the Sacrament of Penance:
12. Given this need, lest any obstacle arise between the request for reconciliation and God’s forgiveness, I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion. The provision I had made in this regard, limited to the duration of the Extraordinary Holy Year, is hereby extended, notwithstanding anything to the contrary. [Note the language. He writes in a nearly juridical style! “grant to all priests… the faculty… notwithstanding…”] I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life. In the same way, however, I can and must state that there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father. May every priest, therefore, be a guide, support and comfort to penitents on this journey of special reconciliation.
For the Jubilee Year I had also granted that those faithful who, for various reasons, attend churches officiated by the priests of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X, can validly and licitly receive the sacramental absolution of their sins. [Again… note the language. He does not seem to grant the faculty to the priests. Right? In the paragraph above, he explicitly says he grants a faculty. So, he knows how to do that. Here, however, he says something else. But wait… there’s more…] For the pastoral benefit of these faithful, and trusting in the good will of their priests to strive with God’s help for the recovery of full communion in the Catholic Church, I have personally decided to extend this faculty beyond the Jubilee Year, [Now he uses the word faculty. But it remains that he started out talking about the faithful rather than the priests. Right?] until further provisions are made, lest anyone ever be deprived of the sacramental sign of reconciliation through the Church’s pardon.
 Cf. Letter According to Which an Indulgence is Granted to the Faithful on the Occasion of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, 1 September 2015.
 Cf. ibid.
In any event, Pope Francis went ahead and did it. There does not seem to be an expiration date on the ability of people to go for valid absolution from SSPX priests.
Mind you… this settles the issue of valid sacramental confessions. It does not settle the issue of valid marriages. The priests of the SSPX are still not proper witnesses of the sacrament, thus not satisfying proper canonical form.
To all those who are attached to chapels of the SSPX…
… GO TO CONFESSION!
Finally, I had in my mail more than one puzzled note about this extension of confession for the SSPX. One of my correspondents, himself a well-known internet personage, wrote:
Your thoughts on my thoughts –
Two things are weird (or big looming issues) ..
1. WHY would the Pope do this? It makes no sense given all his critical comments about “tradition” and so forth?
2. Given the official reaction from the SSPX when their confessional faculties were restored – which is to say, “thanks, but we don’t need your blessing, Pope”, I find it hard to believe that whatever might be offered would be accepted.
Is someone really restored – if they themselves reject the olive branch? What does that look like? Does Pope Francis and the cabal surrounding him simply say “it’s wonderful to have you home”, when those very same people reject the N.O., Vatican II etc?
This whole thing is very weird.
It seems to me that Andrea Gagliarducci gets it pretty much right in todays Monday Vatican offering:
Finally, we can spot this rationale behind the alleged decision on the SSPX, [This was clearly written before the release of the text.] as the dialogue with the Lefevbrists has been dragging on for years. Pope Benedict XVI opened the dialogue by revoking the excommunication of the bishops illicitly ordained by Lefebvre, and kept the door open with the de-restriction of the older form of the Mass. In this way, Benedict took away from the traditionalists every excuse to avoid the dialogue. [Clearly it did not take away “every excuse”.]
After this, Benedict asked the traditionalists to accept some minimum requirementin order to re-enter into communion with Rome, starting from the acceptance of the Magisterium, including the Second Vatican Council. This remains an issue. If he’d make this decision, Pope Francis would go beyond doctrinal preambles, as his pragmatic solution would bring about only the recognition of the validity of confessions heard by priests of the SSPX. The rest will come. [But wait! There’s more!]
This rationale is also behind “Amoris Laetitia”, the much discussed post-synodal apostolic exhortation that followed two years of discussions in the two synods on the family. …
The Pope seems to be trying to get things done by … not doing them. That is, if you want to cook a living frog, you heat the water very slowly. Right? Picture vibrating table until a coffee cup bit by bit moves to the edge of a table. By tiny and nearly imperceptible increments, it slides, it teeters, it falls, seemingly of its own accord!