Q: “Can I go to Mass at an SSPX chapel?”

I got a question via e-mail:

If, on a given day, I have access to Mass at a Novus Ordo Church, but am attached to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, assuming I have no access to a Mass offered by an incardinated priest, can I (for my spiritual benefit) assist at an SSPX chapel even though the priest is suspended a divinis?

Here is my position.  Yes, and no.  That is not a waffle.  I make some distinctions.

Let’s be clear about something.  If you attend Mass at an SSPX or other chapel not in union with the Holy See and the local bishop, you can fulfill your Sunday or Holy Day obligation.  The consecration is valid, though illicit.

There are situations in which people don’t have access to a Catholic priest in good standing for the sacraments.  One obstacle can be physical distance: it would be unreasonably difficult to travel to a place where Mass is offered licitly.  Another obstacle might be, though this is a little fuzzier, moral: the way Mass is celebrated is so bad that you truly can’t stand it, or there is some personal reason why going to that church would be too painful, and so forth.  In that case, for one’s spiritual good, going to another place and even receiving Communion might have some justification.

I want to be clear: I won’t recommend going to a chapel of a group not recognized by the bishop or Holy See.  I won’t say that, under normal circumstances, a person should seek sacraments from a priest not in good standing.  At the same time, to say a person who otherwise could never participate at the older Mass he deeply longs for must never darken the door of an illicit chapel is just plain wrong.   I know there have been some discussions about this lately in the blogosphere and one prominent priest is taking a very hard position on this issue.  This is an old question, however.

My solution would be that you could attend even an illicit Mass, though I would hope with some restraint, but that you should not receive Communion.  You should receive at your normal parish, if you are not impeded from going there for serious reasons, even moral reasons.  Also, you are obliged to support financially your legitimate parish and the legitimate clergy in good standing.  That is a commandment of the Church.  The obligation of financial support does not extend to a chapel not in union with the bishop and Holy See, even though helping an impoverished suspended priest could be wonderful an act of mercy (have done that myself on occasion): that work of mercy does fulfill one’s duty to support the real parish.

I repeat: If it is simply a matter that you prefer the older Mass to the newer, but in all honesty the newer Mass is being celebrated as it ought to be, then I think you should receive Communion at your normal parish and not at an illicit chapel, even if you even regularly attend the older Mass there.  I am not saying don’t go to those older Masses.   I simply think that under normal circumstances one should stick to the legitimate parish and receive Communion there.  Even if the Novus Ordo Mass is just tolerable, one should rather receive Communion there rather than in a place not in unity with the bishop and Holy See.  If you don’t really have to go to that illicit chapel, then don’t go.  If you do, then exercise important restraint.

Our personal preferences are important, and we do have the right to a Mass celebrated as it ought to be and with reverence.  The importance of ecclesial unity, however, is also very important.  The legality of the Mass must be a factor in your decision.  I would also suggest that suffering in this matter can have spiritual benefits.  You know the old phrase: "Offer it up."

In any of these cases in which one decides to attend an illicit chapel, I think one’s conscience had better be pretty clear.  "I want it my way or not at all!" is not a good approach.  God cannot be fooled.

ADDENDUM:

In 1995 the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" wrote:

The Masses [SSPX priests] celebrate are also valid, but it is considered morally illicit for the faithful to participate in these Masses unless they are physically or morally impeded from participating in a Mass celebrated by a Catholic priest in good standing (cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 844.2). The fact of not being able to assist at the celebration of the so-called "Tridentine" Mass is not considered a sufficient motive for attending such Masses.

What I wrote, above, is in clear harmony with this.

UPDATE:

Some one at Free Republic said I wrote this in response to what Brian Mershon wrote in an article taking Fr. Scott Newman to task on this subject.  I did not.  This should have been apparent to anyone bothering actualy to read this entry’s first words.  I wrote this in response to a question put to me by e-mail.  I was aware that there was a flap about this going on, but I had not been following it wil great attention.

FacebookEmailPinterestGoogle GmailShare/Bookmark

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA. Bookmark the permalink.

116 Responses to Q: “Can I go to Mass at an SSPX chapel?”

  1. Father:

    Thank you for addressing this subject. You were clear on a lot of things, but with all due respect, not with the one thing that matters. And that begs a question: how can an illicit means (attendance at an SSPX chapel) be used to accomplish a licit end (fulfillment of one’s Sunday obligation)?

    You know, for most people, the answer really does need to be a simple one.

  2. Matthew Kennel says:

    Father,
    Thanks for addressing this subject. While it would be alot to say that a person should absolutely never, under any circumstances, go to an illicit mass, I believe that such a thing should be heavily discouraged, for three reasons

    1) The need to avoid an occasion of sin – schism is a most serious sin. Those who yearn for the beauty of the old mass may be tempted, after seeing it celebrated at these chapels, to give up the unity of the Church for schism. I have a parallel case in my own experience. I generally avoid going to Protestant churches except at weddings, funerals, and baptisms, lest I should be tempted to sway in my fidelity to the Church out of a desire for the outward forms I was accustomed to as a child.

    2) The need to avoid giving scandal – Could going to a SSPX chapel not give others the idea that one adheres to their schism, or even that the said schism is not harmful or sinful?

    3) To support the motu proprio – Would we not play right into the hands of those who oppose the motu proprio because they see traditionalists as being wayward and destructive to the unity of the church?

    Therefore, I would discourage those for whom attendance at the extraordinary form of the mass (or even its ordinary form) is morally or physically impossible from attending SSPX chapels.

  3. Doesn’t the manner of celebrating Mass also implicate the question of liceity? For example, I have been to Masses where the priest made so many changes to the prayers that we in the pews literally didn’t know how and when to respond (though the words of consecration have always been as written). Doesn’t that render the Mass illicit? And if that’s standard fare in one’s home parish, then isn’t one already stuck going to illicit Masses anyway?

  4. Rafael Cresci says:

    Father, a point I think it would be also important to mention: there is a high risk of brainwashing when attending these chapels. I have lost already about 4-5 friends this exact way: they’ve gone there to the illicit chapel only to fulfill their Sunday obligation – and aware of the dangers involved – but in the end they couldn’t avoid being “incorporated” into the schism and totally brainwashed (a pity, for those who claimed to be wash-proof), in just a question of a small time (they ranged from one month to two before being joined completely to the schism).
    Based on this real-world experience, I would recomment NOBODY to attend those illicit masses, even if the law and the Ecclesia Dei commission allows so (as it have allowed in the past), for the sake of their souls.

  5. How about everyone posting comments just ONCE?

  6. Somerset '76 says:

    What’s being said here so far in comments presupposes something that Cardinal Castrillion has in several interviews this year explicitly denied: the notion of the SSPX being “in schism.” He holds, rather, that they are Catholic clergy of irregular status. (This is a relatively recent position: the carefully constructed guidelines issued by Msgr. Perl in his offcial PCED capacity a decade or so ago for “attending Society Masses while holding one’s nose” still presupposed an SSPX schism as a fact.)

    I do not think legalistic polemics encourages anyone committed to the Society’s camp to reconsider their position. I can recall for the 20 years I was involved there how I bristled at being bludgeoned over the head with textbook canon law. And I still feel that way, even now that I have my own serious reservations about some of the Society’s official positions.

    The better way to raise issue with the Society’s standing is to pursue its own line of logic in assuming its positions and then to critically examine those lines of thinking, paying respect to the intentions of the Society to be only a continuation of what the pre-conciliar Magisterium consistently taught. One should ask: that is their intent, but is this what they indeed do? Is there not something from the postconciliar era that does indeed do a better job of explaining the truth that the SSPX, by its wholesale rejection of non-Thomistic methods, disregards? And are its practical attitudes towards matters of law indeed an application of refusing to enslave the spirit of the law to its letter, as they indeed do maintain?

    Whoever can answer these questions adequately will thus lay a foundation for the questioning of the Society’s premises on their own terms. And it is only the rare commenter I have seen that has raised good questions along these lines.

    All of which is to say: don’t be so quick neither to demonize nor canonize the Society and its work.

  7. David: The 1983 Code of Canon Law states that we fulfill our obligation, when we have one, by attending Mass in a Catholic Rite on the vigil or day itself. Therefore, you can fulfill it by attending Mass at an illicit chapel. This has been clarified also by the Holy See, so it is not my opinion.

  8. “Doesn’t the manner of celebrating Mass also implicate the question of liceity?”

    (I think it’s hard to submit these entries tonight, so some things are appearing twice.)

    I don’t mean to interfere with Father’s answering of the question. But I wonder if there is more to liceity than that? There may be aspects of a Mass that are illicitly conducted, but if the priest is in communion with Rome, through the local bishop, is that not the operative factor in liceity?

    Otherwise we could all just bop on down to the local independent chapel and not wait around for a papal decree, do you think?

    Or don’t you?

  9. Matthew: In no way can my message be read as encouraging people to go to an illicit chapel under normal circumstances.

  10. Rafael: I agree that sometimes the things you may hear at some of those chapels are not always suitable for Catholic ears. There is often highly anti-papal rhetoric. However, not all of those chapels are so harsh. Also, there are some circumstances when people could go. A black and white prohibition is not reasonable. One must exercise great prudence.

  11. Somerset '76 says:

    [Father: the site’s having technical issues, hence the problem of duplicate posts. It’s not always responding to post commands.]

  12. Somerset ’76: What you mention is not relevant. A defense of the SSPX is out of place. It is beyond dispute that their chapels are illicit and the priests are suspended a divinis. No one is saying they are in schism (leaving aside the famous “Duck Argument” for now).

    The question is about attending an illicit chapel.

    Let’s stay out of the rabbit hole.

  13. Perhaps clicking that submit button once is the best approach.

  14. AALEX1 says:

    Father Z: How about using the 1962 Roman Missal published by Angelus press? Is there a good source for an approved 1962 Missal?

  15. Ave Maria says:

    Matthew wrote: “While it would be alot to say that a person should absolutely
    never, under any circumstances, go to an illicit mass”

    Well, I go to illicit Masses all the time!!! Because that is all there is!
    I have contacted my spiritual director numerous times to check to see if the
    line has been crossed and the Mass is no longer ‘just’ illicit but is in fact
    invalid. So far the reply is that the Mass with all its abuses and subtractions
    and additions it ‘valid but illicit’. I hope. I have had it happen that half
    the Mass is chopped off. I have attended Elvis impersonation Masses and the
    running commentary Masses and words changed here and there Masses but it seems
    that as long as the words of consecration are there then the Mass is valid.

    (and the priest is validly ordained, there is proper matter for consecration
    and he intends to do what the church intends at that time).

    I hope to soon attend a totally licit and abuse free Mass and that will
    probably happen as my ‘retired’ confessor fills in and also I will soon be
    going on a trip and I know of a faithful parish where I am going.

  16. Jordan Potter says:

    Therefore, you can fulfill it by attending Mass at an illicit chapel. This has been clarified also by the Holy See, so it is not my opinion.

    It may be the case that one can fulfilled one’s Sunday obligation by attending an illegal, unauthorised chapel, but it still remains to be explained how an illicit means can be used to accomplish a licit end. If the Church says it can be done, okay, but it still leaves one scratching one’s head about why it’s okay to attend a Mass celebrated by a priest who has no business celebrating Mass at all. Until the SSPX’s disobedience and irregular status is resolved (hopefully that will be soon), the only way I can envision myself receiving Communion from an SSPX priest (or any other priest who has been suspended) is if I’m dying and no unimpeded priests are available.

  17. Jordan Potter says:

    And yes, I’m sleep deprived right now, but I do know the difference between receiving Communion and assisting at Mass: I would not be able in good conscience to do either when it comes to the SSPX.

  18. Jordan: This is not complicated. The Code says you fulfill your obligation by attending Mass in a Catholic Rite. That the SSPX uses a Catholic Rite is beyond dispute. You fulfill your obligation. This is settled.

    Remember: church law is interpreted in as favorable a way as possible when it comes to what favors them and as strictly as possible when the law places restrictions.

    Remember: It is not obligatory to receive Holy Communion at any Mass, licit or illicit. It is not necessary to receive to fulfill your obligation. As a matter of fact, people who may not receive still have the obligation to go to Mass. They must go and must not receive.

  19. Jordan Potter says:

    The Code says you fulfill your obligation by attending Mass in a Catholic Rite. That the SSPX uses a Catholic Rite is beyond dispute. You fulfill your obligation. This is settled.

    Okay, canon 923. That’s the Church law. But the theology, if that’s the right word, that makes it possible for a Catholic to disregard the unity of the Church and still fulfill the Sunday obligation needs some working out. If I’m not mistaken, for quite a long time a Catholic couldn’t do that at all. Is it something like the validity of non-Catholic baptisms?

    But apart from the question of whether or not illegal Masses satisfy the barest letter of the law of Sunday obligation, there’s still the fact that attending and/or receiving Communion at a Mass celebrated by a canonically impeded priest is not something a faithful Catholic should be doing. Such a Mass is an act of disobedience and an attack on the Church’s unity — so how do you assist at such a Mass without giving your tacit or even explicit agreement with the priest’s sin? That’s why I can’t in good conscience attend an SSPX chapel. When the Church recognises them as a Catholic priestly fraternity, that will change; but as long as they continue to hold themselves aloof from the Church and disregard her God-given constitution, or present themselves as the remnant of true Catholics or claim the Church has lapsed into doctrinal error, I’ll have to regard them as I would a sect.

  20. Seamas O Dalaigh says:

    Father,

    Thanks for the sound and thoughtful answer.

    James Daly

  21. Mark says:

    For those of you interested in the “Rabbit Hole” – you should read, Brian Mershon’s excellent article on the matter (SSPX in schism? You can believe Fr. Newman… or you can believe the Church) which Rorate Caeli links to here: http://www.renewamerica.us/columns/mershon/070807

    Ex anima,

    Mark

  22. Simon says:

    and confession? Is it ever permissible or even possible?

  23. Tim Ferguson says:

    Confession – no, except in danger of death situations, because for confession to be valid, (again, except in danger of death) the priest hearing the confession needs to have the faculty to do so (c. 966). Priests of the Society, as a whole, have not been granted the faculty by the local ordinary (c. 969), hence they are not able to validly give absolution to the faithful (except in danger of death, c. 976).

    The reason that this is different from Mass and the Sunday Obligation is that Penance is both a sacrament and an exercise of jurisdiction. Priests who are validly ordained may be able to validly confect a sacrament, but without jurisdiction from the hierarchy, they are not able to validly exercise the power of governance.

  24. John says:

    Jordan,

    Simply because a priest is incardinated, does not mean the Mass he says will be licit. I believe this is the point. One must make a prudential judgement based on his state in life. One must ask himself the question, “Do I subject my family to a Liturgy that (in many cases) has a blatent disrespect of our Lord in the Eucharist, a Mass that refuses to follow the rubrics, refuses to cease abusing Extraordinary Misisterial functions, refuses to install lay-ministers appropriately and according to canon law, refuses to encourage Communion on the tonugue as asked for by the Pontiffs, refuses to heed the command for Latin, Gregorian Chant, moments of silence, dignified servers, etc, and have homilies recommending the Spirituality and doctrines of heathens, heretics, and infidels? Or do I subject myself to a community that appears to be disobedient to Rome and may have some less-than-appropriate things to say about the Vatican?” In both cases (again, for the most part, and this is not an exageration) the liturgy is illicit, so both in a sense can pose problems for the faithful, the question is, which one is less problematic?

  25. danphunter1 says:

    Jordan,
    I have been to SSPX mass’s where the priest during his homily,vocally supports the Diocesa n Bishop and reads his announcements to the diocese from the pulpit.
    The same SSPX pastor has participated in diocesan sponsered right to life march’s and has had a running correspondence with the bishop.
    So you see that there are some SSPX priests who are part of their diocese and listen to their Ordinary.The same priest has told the congregation to support and listen to the Holy Father as well as the Bishop.
    God bless you

  26. RBrown says:

    MKennel,

    I disagree with all three of your points.

    1. If someone goes to an SSPX chapel because it is the only accessible 1962 mass, then it is not a formally schismatic act.

    2. If going to an SSPX could give scandal because someone might assume that it is an act supporting schism, then it could equally be said that going to a vernacular Novus Ordo gives scandal because it implicitly denies that Latin is the liturgical language of the Church AND denies the liturgical continuity of the Church. Further, it could be seen as an affirmation of a bishop who denies the authority of the pope.

    3. One reason given for the MP is to provide for those attached to mass according to the 1962 Missal.

  27. “Simply because a priest is incardinated, does not mean the Mass he says will be licit.”

    It’s on the short list or requirements, John. I’ll be the first to welcome a reconciliation with SSPX which brings that Society into communion with Rome. I believe this because communion with Rome is a big deal, and there are writers (including bloggers) who do a great disservice by giving the impression otherwise. There have been times in the Church’s history when remaining loyal to Peter was not easy. Even in the present, I for one have traveled to many parts of the country, where I was genuinely embarrassed by the behavior of the priest. I was not there to see him; I was there to see Our Lord. (Sticking my nose in the missal usually helps. That, and a sense of detachment.) Our Lord established His Church on earth, one which is united with Peter, not led by clerics who engage in (essentially) free-lancing, however attractive the setting. What they say on the pulpit may be the right message. What they DO, and how they do it, sends a message as well.

    This is not some weighty ethical issue, like whether we should have dropped the bomb on Japan. This is a no-nonsense Joe Sixpack kind of issue that is best served by a simple answer. Can an illicit (unlawful) means be used to accomplish a licit (lawful) end? Common sense alone would say, no, it cannot.

    In order to refute that submission, one would have to demonstrate why an illicit means CAN be used to accomplish a licit end.

  28. Jordan Potter says:

    John said: Simply because a priest is incardinated, does not mean the Mass he says will be licit.

    Of course, but if a priest is suspended a divinis, then his Mass is never licit.

    Or do I subject myself to a community that appears to be disobedient to Rome and may have some less-than-appropriate things to say about the Vatican?”

    Not appears to be — unquestionably is.

    In both cases (again, for the most part, and this is not an exageration) the liturgy is illicit, so both in a sense can pose problems for the faithful, the question is, which one is less problematic?

    Unity of the Church is pretty important. So is following the rubrics. But unless the liturgical abuses are numerous and grave, I can’t see frequenting a Mass of a suspended priest.

    Dan said: I have been to SSPX mass’s where the priest during his homily, vocally supports the Diocesan Bishop and reads his announcements to the diocese from the pulpit. The same SSPX pastor has participated in diocesan sponsored right to life march’s and has had a running correspondence with the bishop. So you see that there are some SSPX priests who are part of their diocese and listen to their Ordinary. The same priest has told the congregation to support and listen to the Holy Father as well as the Bishop.

    No, to be a part of the diocese, his chapel must be recognised by the Church and the priest’s suspension must be lifted and he must be incardinated. So, while it’s a very good thing that this priest you mention is on good terms with his lawful bishop, he’s still not in a proper, Catholic relationship to him.

  29. Brian Mershon says:

    Dan Hunter, That has been my experience also. I have NEVER heard anything remotely “disobedient” nor schismatic at theat the handful of SSPX chapels I have attended, especially when traveling. When I am traveling and an indult or FSSP or ICR Mass center are not available, I have stopped spending ridiculous amounts of time trying to discern how the Mass might be offered at the local parish. The SSPX priests I have encountered have given sermons on the gospel and the lessons or a sermon on some point of Catholic doctrine. I am sure there are exceptions, but even when an SSPX priest is pointing out errors in some local Ordinary’s position or something that appears to conflict with traditional Catholic doctrine (excesses in ecuemnical events, for instance), this certainly cannot be called “schismatic” or disobedient.

    For the record, I have written the PCED twice within the past three years with very specific questions in order to attempt to clear up this confusion, and after stating they “cannot recommend” attendance at an SSPX chapel, they then go on to say they leave it to a priest of my confidence for any further counsel on this matter.

    While it is clear a Catholic may fulfill his Sunday obligation at an SSPX chapel, I wrote the PCED asking specifically if it would be sinful to receive Holy Communion there. In both instances, they refused to answer that question. Because theyir answers to questions the laity pose to them can be acted upon with a moral certitude, I concluded that if it was infdeed sinful to receive Holy Communion from priests in “partial communion” as the new theology has it, then certainly the PCED would have been obligated to tell me as much.

    Of course, except in grave situations, we must not receive Holy Communion at the Eastern Orthodox churches, if for some reason, we were to fulfill our Sunday obligation there. But as far as “degrees of communion,” certainly the SSPX, recognizing the authority of the Holy Father and not claiming to be their own “Church” in a theological sense, is im nuch greater percentage of communion (again, the new ecclesiology…) with the Church and the Faith than a good many pastors and parishes within the mainline Church establishment despite the fact they are “juridically” recognized as being in full communion.

    I am open to correction. Everyone needs to realize that despite media and blogdom commentary to the contrary, the SSPX priests for the vast majority of their time sacrifice endlessly for small groups of Catholics and do not spend the majority of their time bashing the Church. In fact, I have seen more of that from disgruntled indult goers who haven’t had access to the Traditional Mass and sacraments for years (or have had only “tastes” of it), than I have from the lay faithful who frequently attend SSPX Mass centers.

    Let us pray that soon all of this will be moot if the Pope were to graciously lift the decreess of excommunication.

  30. William A. Torchia, Esquire says:

    Dear Father Z:

    Do you remember Cardinal Ratzinger’s response when a Bishop in Hawaii tried to excommunicate those who attended a chapel of the SSPX? He overruled the bishop, and told the faithful they could not only attend but could also give a monetary donation. I respectfully disagree with your answer, relying on what the now Pope Benedict XVI did and said several years ago as head of the Holy Office.

    William A.Torchia, Esquire
    Philadelphia

  31. Dr. Lee Fratantuono says:

    Father, this is one of your finest hours: a wonderfully diplomatic, soundly reasoned response to a touchy question of the modern age.

  32. Kate Asjes says:

    Dear Fr. Z,

    Our family moves every couple of years so we are regularly seeking out a new parish in a new diocese. We have young children and are diligent about teaching them their Faith. We believe that the Holy Mass is the greatest catechiser, therefor, we try never to expose them to too many wacky Masses. In fact we avoid Communion services in the absence of a priest (which have become common, replacing daily Mass) because they look so much like a Mass to a child, but are usually presided over by a woman. We have witnessed repeatedly: sisters giving the homily, the precious blood cosecrated in a glass flagon and poured into chalices by EMHCs, known abortion supporters as EMHCs, etc…

    Would protecting children from being improperly catechised be a good reason to seek out an SSPX Mass?

    Thank You!

  33. John says:

    Jordan,

    Those are all very good points. First it should be noted that a priest’s obedience to Rome is not up for you to determine. Now the Bishops of the SSPX involved in the illicit consecration were excommunicated, but time and time again the Ecclesia Dei Commission, and Cardinal Ratzinger as former head of the DDF have affirmed that this is not necessarily the case for the priests. Objectively speaking they are therefore to be considered Catholic Priests, subjectively speaking we cannot judge their interior state.

    unless the liturgical abuses are numerous and grave

    This is precisely the point. The Holy Father AFFIRMED this fact in his recent Motu Proprio. The abuses have been most definately numerous and grave. Furthermore, these abuses have a very serious impact on the faithful. One need merely read the Ottaviani Intervention to come to an understanding of the gravity of the problems surrounding the Novus Ordo (though not necessarily intrinsic to it).

    And of course I agree that unity of the Church is important. Yet, how can I tell my children they must seek this unity, when the priest in front of them at Mass tells them it doesn’t matter, because all religions can provide salvation to their believers? How can I teach them to obey the Holy Father when the priests and ministers of their liturgy refuse to obey the simple rubrics of the Novus Ordo? These are questions that are not easily answered, and cleary one can make a strong case for choosing to attend the SSPX chapels, and even recommending them on an individual basis, in lieu of the local Novus Ordo Masses.

  34. William: I respectfully disagree with your answer, relying on what the now Pope Benedict XVI did and said several years ago as head of the Holy Office.

    Then you didn’t read what I wrote carefully.

    The question addressed to the CDF was not question I was asked. The CDF dealt with an censure improperly imposed by a bishop. That does not concern us here. Card. Ratzinger’s answer, furthermore, doesn’t really say much more than I said.

    Also, be careful not to retro-actively impute definitive answers in CDF letters just because Joseph Card. Ratzinger was later elected Pope.

  35. “Therefore, you can fulfill it by attending Mass at an illicit chapel. This has been clarified also by the Holy See, so it is not my opinion.”

    Thank you for responding, Father. (I missed your answer to my specific post last night, as the combox was filling quickly. Go figure.)

    I am aware of the canon (which presumes a specific understanding of the term “Catholic”), and of attempts at clarification. I would question whether those attempts did much to clear up anything, or we wouldn’t be having this discussion right now. I once fulfilled my obligation by attending an Orthodox church, many years ago, but only when the weather prohibited me from attending a Catholic Mass. But I was under no illusions that the circumstances were the norm. And while MY discipline would have allowed me to receive Communion there, THEIRS did not, which is why I did not.

    Yes, there are circumstances where you CAN fulfill your obligation at a church or oratory out of communion with Rome. In that sense, the responses from Rome would be applicable, when read carefully. The problem has been that they are not being read carefully. Also, what is implicit in the discussion, is whether such a practice would be normative.

    The only honest answer would have to be in the negative. For that, I would look no farther than what you yourself have written. Thank you again.

  36. dcs says:

    William A. Torchia, Esq. writes:
    Do you remember Cardinal Ratzinger’s response when a Bishop in Hawaii tried to excommunicate those who attended a chapel of the SSPX? He overruled the bishop, and told the faithful they could not only attend but could also give a monetary donation. I respectfully disagree with your answer, relying on what the now Pope Benedict XVI did and said several years ago as head of the Holy Office.

    The documents regarding the “Hawaii Six” and their “excommunications” are available on the SSPX web site. Then-Card. Ratzinger’s decree says that their actions were “blameworthy on various accounts” but “are not sufficient to constitute the crime of schism.” Therefore the excommunications are null and void. His Eminence did not say that they could attend SSPX chapels and give a monetary donation (though the PCED later said just that), only that such activities are not schismatic.

  37. Brian: I have NEVER heard anything remotely “disobedient” nor schismatic at the handful of SSPX chapels I have attended

    I have. This is why each situation calls for a prudential judgment and no black and white policy can be imposed.

    “cannot recommend”

    Sound familiar? That is what I said above. That is also what I used to say when I handled English correspondence while working for that same Pontifical Commission years ago. How can the Holy See recommend going to an illicit chapel? At the same time, the Code speaks to the issue of Catholics having the right to seek sacraments from validly ordained ministers of Churches not in union with Rome when the circumstances are serious enough to merit such a thing. If that can apply to the Orthodox sacraments, why would it not apply to those administered by the SSPX? This is why I wrote my answer as I did. Going to the Orthodox for sacraments is a serious move requiring true need. It is not to be done just because you like the way they do things.

    On the other hand, provided we fulfill our Mass obligation, I don’t see why we couldn’t attend one of their divine liturgies – so long, of course, as we are not risking undermining our unity with the Holy See. I must apply this same logic to chapels of the SSPX. Provided that we avoid any risk of harming our respect for the Pope and the bishop and losing track of where we belong, and provided that we fulfill our obligations, I can’t see why a person couldn’t go to the old Mass he loves so much at a schismatic chapel, at least occasionally. I don’t think a person should receive Communion, however, unless – as I explained in my answer – he is seriously impeded from receiving at a legitimate church.

    Also, about that excommunication. just so people reading this know, the Holy See doesn’t say that laypeople who frequent SSPX chapels are excommunicated. The SSPX bishops are. It would be a wonderful thing to see that lifted. However, so long as they refuse submission to the Roman Pontiff, I sadly cannot see that happening.

  38. Dear Father Z:

    Thank you for clarifying the issue.

    William A. Torchia, Esq.

  39. David: I once fulfilled my obligation by attending an Orthodox church, many years ago, but only when the weather prohibited me from attending a Catholic Mass.

    I am not sure you did fulfill your obligation. However, since you did not have the possibility of going to a Catholic Church, you were not bound to your obligation that day. The same would go if you were very very sick and the church were across the street or you were a little old lady afraid to go out on the icy sidewalk in the winter. The Church doesn’t oblige us to do things that are impossible. Our Sunday obligation is not “the rack”. We have to fulfill our obligation in the way the Church asks, but when that is impossible, we don’t sin by not fulfilling it that day.

    The provision in Canon Law that we can, under serious circumstances, seek valid Communion from a valid but non-Catholic minister is NOT so that we can fulfill a Sunday obligation. It is for spiritual well-being, when being deprived of Holy Communion would be a true spiritual burden.

    Going to the Orthodox church on a Sunday doesn’t fulfill our obligation to attend Mass in a Catholic Rite. It would if you went to a very similar Divine Liturgy at a, say, Greek Catholic church or a Ukrainian Catholic Church, in union with Rome. Those are Catholic Rites celebrated there.

    Remember: the Code pertains to the Latin Church and its subjects. There is a different Code for the Eastern Churches. The Legislator of the Latin Code is making sure Latin Church subjects know that they can go to a non-Latin Catholic Church and fulfill their obligation. But, because that Canon is a little vague (which is good!) it also applies to chapels of the SSPX: it says we can fulfill our obligation by going to Mass in a Catholic Rite, and since the what the SSPX uses is a Catholic Rite, there is no question that it fulfills our obligation.

  40. Matthew Kennel says:

    Fr. Z,
    My apologies for posting twice. I thought that it hadn’t gone through the first time because it had just sat there for like 10 minutes. Next time I’ll double check by reloading before hitting the post button a second time.
    Although I understood that you were not talking about normal circumstances when I posted last night, I think that I may have misinterpreted your post as suggesting that anger at the sloppy way mass was celebrated in a parish in union with the Holy See could make attending that parish morally impossible, and thus allow for attending a SSPX chapel. Was that what you were saying? In any case, given my rereading of your post, I withdraw my objections, except for the first. I still think it could be an occasion of the sin of schism, especially for someone strongly attached to the extraordinary form. But that would probably be a matter to take up with a prudent confessor, and thus I still agree with you that it cannot be said that one can never darken the door of an SSPX chapel.

    Rbrown,

    You said,

    “1. If someone goes to an SSPX chapel because it is the only accessible 1962 mass, then it is not a formally schismatic act.” – That’s true. Nor is going to a SSPX chapel, even if it’s not the only accessible 1962 mass, necessarily schismatic. My point was that it could be an occasion of sin, because by going there one could easily be attracted to and join their schism, as several other posters have also pointed out.

  41. eric frankovitch says:

    Haven’t these very issues been addressed by Monsignor
    Perl and Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos? Didn’t they conclude that It would be appropriate to make a donation when one attended Mass at one of their locations? Are our attitudes toward the SSPX more harsh than Rome’s?

  42. Jay says:

    Both NO and TLM have been promulgated by Papal Bulls. TLM has never been abrogated, however and amazingly. I stopped attending my NO Parish Masses after suffering on every Sunday instead of enjoying Lord’s Day. After long research I decided in favour of Indult Masses, which takes me to attend every Sunday around two hours traveling. Occasionally I attend SSPX Masses. But there is a very specific mentality of meticulous scrutinising and criticising everything that comes out of Rome, all that is NO or Indult is ‘unclean’ (not to mention similar attitude of NO people towards Indult or SSPX). At the begining of my SSPX encounter, I almost let myself to be brainwashed, but after some time I realised it is not as it should be. I recommend to all those that have similar experiences to read a book by Jacob Michael (www.lumengentelman) explaining why he left SSPX without saying schism. it is very good little book which can be downloaded on his website and explains well all that is troublesome with SSPX. Although the liturgy and teaching there are usually very edifying, however, this sort of mentality which is prevalent among SSPX people is very serious matter, it can intoxicate. MP was very much needed to clarify TLM situation, however, in ordinary Parish around the world, I presume, the existence of 7th July MP is totally unknown and not even mentioned during sermons. This is the role for Trads, to organise some discreet ‘campaign’ of information, handing out some nicely prepared booklets etc, I do not know, but something must be done, to make Catholics aware that something has changed for better. God bless.

  43. Henry Edwards says:

    How about using the 1962 Roman Missal published by Angelus press? Is there a good source for an approved 1962 Missal?

    I have nothing useful to add about the more substantial issues here, but I do know a good deal about 1962 missals. (I might mention that I attend the Novus Ordo Mass daily, and approved indult Mass on occasional Sundays, and never attend any more venturesome kind of TLM).

    The Angelus missal is an excellent missal to use without hesitation. It appears to be a straightforward reprint (with isolated updates like quotes of the 1983 code of canon law) of a missal with an original 1962 imprimatur). I’d think any misgivings about it might be banished by the fact that it is the 1962 missal recommended at the web site of St. John Cantius Church (Chicago), probably the best U.S. example of a parish fully uniting the old and new Masses in its regular schedule.

    The 1962 missal published by Baronius Press is essentially a reprint of the same original 1962 missal, but with a new imprimatur (and beautiful foreword) by Bishop Bruskewicz (Lincoln, NB).

    The Angelus Press missal is the one I’ve given to several priests wanting to learn something about the old Mass (partly because of its binding and physical formatting). It’s also the one I use daily to follow the old reading and propers privately, because the typeface of the Latin propers is better for my own eyes. Whereas I use the Baronius missal at Sunday Mass because for the Ordinary in English I prefer it’s typography (even though most of the new 1962 missals I see in other people’s hands at indult Masses seem to be Angelus Press missals).

  44. Great clarification by Fr. Z. This is similar to the post I wrote yesterday concerning the same matter. Check out my blog at http://www.youngcatholicstl.blogspot.com for another good analysis. Thanks Fr. Z. for clarifying!

  45. Brian Mershon says:

    Thank you Fr. Z. I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment. I would add that since the PCED has seemingly refused to answer the question about the reception of Holy Communion at SSPX chapels (I have consulted with three or four prieests and a very knowledgeable canonist on this question)as being sinful or not, that each person should decide for himself with prudent guidance (Do we really need to consult four priests and a reputable canonist?)whether or not to receive Holy Communion there.

    And while I understand that two wrongs do not make a right, I am fairly confident when I say that I am in much more jeopardy in hearing heresy in sermons at a typical Novus Ordo parish from the pulpit than I ever am at occasional attendance at an SSPX chapel.

    Is it possible to elaborate on the great number of illicit Masses that occur with the Novus Ordo even at conservative or orthodox parishes? For instance, “May this sacrifice, both yours and mine, be acceptable to God the Almighty Father.” The words in the Missal do not say this. They say “May our sacrifice be acceptable to God the Almighty Father…” Now, of course, the degrees of abuse can also be taken into consideration, but strictly speaking, since the English ICED translation is incorrect, and these priests (more than one I know) who say the first version are actually more in keeping wit hthe Latin and the mind of the Church, but the Mass is illicit because they are not using the form approved by the Holy See in the English version.

    Father, am I correct?

  46. “[The canon] says we can fulfill our obligation by going to Mass in a Catholic Rite, and since the what the SSPX uses is a Catholic Rite, there is no question that it fulfills our obligation.”

    Thank you for your clarification regarding attending Divine Liturgy at an Orthodox church. I am familiar with Eastern churches in communion with Rome. My son was raised in one.

    If “there is no question,” as you say, then the issue of whether such celebration is licit or illicit would have to be moot, and that we never had to wait for an indult or a motu proprio for a remedy (their value in the long run notwithstanding). In fact, I know of a number of “Old Catholic” or other independent Catholic places of worship, which use the older Roman Missal, that is to say a “Catholic Rite” as you appear to have defined it in your response. In some circumstances, the priest’s orders would be valid, as would be those of his bishop. Hmmm…

    Yes, it’s a rabbit hole, and I know you don’t like those. I make no claims to have created this one. You have given me much to reconsider, however, and it is most appreciated.

  47. John says:

    While I have never been to a SSPX chapel and wouldn’t darken the door of one if there were a reverent and reasonably faithful mass nearby, I find it hard to believe that the priests at the “gay-friendly” Paulist Center in Boston (John Kerry’s church) are in greater communion with Rome and the local bishop than an SSPX priest. The mass there is a travesty. The place stinks of disobedience and heresy, and when I walk by the place I pray that Catholics (and non-Catholics) who might stumble upon it will not be driven away from the Church by such a scandalous chapel, which has the audacity to call itself “a warm, spiritual home for progressive Catholics.”

    Like Father Z. said, it all goes to one’s conscience. If one is physically or morally prevented from attending a local mass celebrated by a priest in “good standing” (juridically, at least! See: Richard McBrien), I would not begrudge fulfilling the Sunday obligation at a SSPX mass with proper discernment and prudence. And, I think, Rome has already made this clear.

  48. YoungCatholicSTL: Check out my blog … for another good analysis.

    Even though you do say so yourself.

  49. danphunter1 says:

    Does anyone know why Bishop Fellay has not given his complete obedience to The Roma Pontiff?
    The SSPX web site states that they give their filial obedience to Pope Benedict,but otherwise I have heard that Bishop Fellay is disobediant.
    In what way is he?
    God bless.

  50. Jordan Potter says:

    John said: First it should be noted that a priest’s obedience to Rome is not up for you to determine.

    I’m not sure what you mean. A priest is either canonically impeded or not. All SSPX priests are canonically impeded. That’s not my determination, that is something that was determined by the Church.

    Now the Bishops of the SSPX involved in the illicit consecration were excommunicated, but time and time again the Ecclesia Dei Commission, and Cardinal Ratzinger as former head of the DDF have affirmed that this is not necessarily the case for the priests. Objectively speaking they are therefore to be considered Catholic Priests, subjectively speaking we cannot judge their interior state.

    The priests are not, as a rule, excommunicated, but they are all suspended a divinis, and therefore shouldn’t be celebrating Masses anywhere, let alone at chapel unaffiliated with the Catholic Church. This is not an attempt to judge their interior state, it is a recognition of their objective relationship with the Church’s legitimate pastors.

    The other points you make are good ones. Many parishes are in such disarray that they’re really not Catholic even though they are in a recognised relationship with the rest of the Church. To escape such outrages, though, going the SSPX route would still have to be down toward the bottom of my list. I’m grateful that in our diocese, things are much better than other dioceses and we’ve had some good bishops as well (which is probably one reason why the SSPX doesn’t have that big a following here, though they do run a boarding school/seminary for boys here). So I don’t have to deal with a lot of the issues that I’ve seen firsthand in other dioceses. With the new motu proprio, in the near future SSPX chapels will be attracting fewer Catholics to their Masses, which will be a good thing — and hopefully more SSPX priests will be reconciling with the Church too.

  51. danphunter1 says:

    Why Couldn’t His Excellency just meet with His Holiness and straighten it all out?
    The priests of the SSPX would do what their superior tells them.

  52. Brian: “…each person should decide for himself with prudent guidance …” 

    That is reasonable, so long as the guidance he receives is reasonable.  For example, I don’t think that it would be reasonable to say “NEVER!” and mean that for everyone.  A confessor might say ” Never!”  to an individual based on his particular situation.

    I am in much more jeopardy in hearing heresy in sermons at a typical Novus Ordo parish from the pulpit than I ever am at occasional attendance at an SSPX chapel.

    I would therefore suggest, if possible, attending a Novus Ordo parish where good sermons are preached.  It also occurs to me to ask if heresy is never preached from the pulpits of SSPX chapels.  I suspect that happens too.

    Is it possible to elaborate on the great number of illicit Masses that occur with the Novus Ordo even at conservative or orthodox parishes? … Father, am I correct?

    I don’t think that making such a change to the ghastly ICEL translation in that instance (the Orate Fratres) would make the whole Mass illicit.  Should the priest do that?  In an ideal world, no.   I don’t think changing words here and there makes a Mass illicit.  I don’t think, for example, that when in the readings for Christmas time we heard that Jesus was placed in a “feedbox” a priest would go to hell for changing the word to “manger”, nor should people run shrieking from the church because Mass was thereby rendered illicit.  Nor do slips of the tongue make Mass illicit.

    Far more troubling are deliberate changes which distort what the Latin really says or which “correct” what the Church teaches.

    In any event, I think I would limit my use of the word illicit to a very narrow set of circumstances.  If a priest is suspended a divinis, taking his orders from a group which defies the Roman Pontiff’s authority and which has set up a chapel in a diocese without any reference to the local bishop, that Mass, no matter how reverent it is or what is preached from the pulpit is certainly illicit.  If a priest in good standing at a real parish makes an adjustment to correct a blatantly bogus translation to bring what is said into keeping with the original and with what the Church teaches, while not optimal, that doesn’t make the Mass invalid.

    Kindly know that this whole line of discussion is OFF TOPIC.  Let’s not expand it.

  53. RBrown says:

    “1. If someone goes to an SSPX chapel because it is the only accessible 1962 mass, then it is not a formally schismatic act.” – That’s true. Nor is going to a SSPX chapel, even if it’s not the only accessible 1962 mass, necessarily schismatic. My point was that it could be an occasion of sin, because by going there one could easily be attracted to and join their schism, as several other posters have also pointed out.
    Comment by Matthew Kennel

    That’s not only moralistic but selectively so. Going to a Novus Ordo mass could also be an occasion of sin, for various reasons.

    Are you an engineer? Your comments remind me of students I’ve had who were engineers.

  54. John H says:

    Jordan,

    Disobedience to an unjust law is not true disobedience insofar as an unjust law is no law according to St. Thomas Aquinas. Up until 7/7/7, Catholic priests were forbidden unjustly from saying the TLM, which according to the MP was never abrogated. SSPX priests continued to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the faithful who were being tyranized by anti-Traditional bishops. This is not true disobedience, and one could make a very strong case in this regard. Even now bishops claim they have the right to regulate who can and who cannnot say the TLM, thus it would seem that for some time from now SSPX priests will have a legitimate claim to their right to say the Mass insofar as they would otherwise be gravely and unjustly impeded by their local ordinaries. To judge individual priests as disobedient is not up to us, this is up to the hierarchy. They may have a legitimate claim to offer Mass despite their irregular status.

  55. RBrown says:

    Not enough has been said here concerning the rights of the Christifideles, who “have the right to be assisted by their Pastors from the spiritual riches of the Church” (CIC 213) But considering the importance of the liturgy and the fact that Latin is the liturgical language of the Church acc to VatII, the laity has the right to the spiritual riches of Latin liturgy.

    If Bishops and parochial pastors deprive the laity of this right, then the Christifideles can seek it elsewhere.

    Lex Suprema salus animarum

  56. RBrown: Are you an engineer? Your comments remind me of students I’ve had who were engineers.

    To whom are you talking?

    Kindly address your comments to someone when posting in this blog. I don’t care what you do on other blogs. Around here, kindly lead off with the handle or name of the person to whom you are talking. Help us out.

  57. Jordan Potter says:

    Disobedience to an unjust law is not true disobedience insofar as an unjust law is no law according to St. Thomas Aquinas.

    That’s true, but it is not an unjust law that bishops are to be consecrated with the approval of the Holy See. The four SSPX bishops were consecrated without that approval and therefore are excommunicated — they are episcopes vagantes, if I remember the term correctly. That means that the priests they have ordained are suspended a divinis. Nor is it an unjust law that the Holy Sacrifice be offered at liturgies that are approved explicitly or tacitly by the diocesan bishop. Consequently, it is true disobedience for an SSPX priest to celebrate Mass.

    To judge individual priests as disobedient is not up to us, this is up to the hierarchy.

    As I said, the Church has judged that those individuals priests are disobedient. It is not an act of presumption to agree with the Church’s judgment.

    They may have a legitimate claim to offer Mass despite their irregular status.

    As Latin Rite priests, they have a right to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass. As suspended priests, they do not have a right to celebrate Mass, whether Johannine or Pauline. Even if they celebrated Pauline Masses, SSPX priests would be disobeying the Church every time they celebrated Mass, because they are suspended and are not allowed to celebrate Mass.

  58. J says:

    Dear Father,

    A less technical question: your answer seems to presume that the average priest is in fact “in good standing.” But there are many priests whop are not in communion with Rome (subjectively, not objectively). So what is the difference between the sedevacantist priest and the liberal priest?

    Thanks.

  59. Jordan Potter says:

    Oops. Those were John H’s comments I was responding to. Fr. Z’s admonition is for me too. Sorry.

  60. Jordan Potter says:

    Actually, Fr. Z’s admonition applies to me and not to RBrown, who indicated that he was responding to Matthew Kennel’s comment.

  61. RBrown says:

    Fr Z,
    The reply was to MKennel, as is indicated at the end of his quoted comments.

  62. John R. says:

    By the same token, then attending an Orthodox Divine Liturgy satisfies your Sunday obligation.

  63. Jay says:

    SSPX is in general very pious, very Catholic in liturgy but is strongly locked up in this specific mentality of criticism and scrutinising all that is of Rome. In my opinion, if they will not be reconciled fully with the Holy See, which I pray will happen, they will end up in separation, almost like Old-Catholics who never accepted Vatican I. This is not the way, Archbishop Lefebvre was active part of V2 and no doubt he and SSPX have their contribution to preservation of traditional liturgy. And I even say that to that end they are providential to the Church, but they need to be reconciled with the Church, otherwise they will become more and more separated.

  64. dcs says:

    John R. writes:
    By the same token, then attending an Orthodox Divine Liturgy satisfies your Sunday obligation.

    Fr. Z. has already explained that it does not.

    I’m not sure it is fair to compare the SSPX to a Church that denies Papal Primacy, Papal Infallibility, and the Immaculate Conception.

  65. dcs says:

    J asks:
    So what is the difference between the sedevacantist priest and the liberal priest?

    The latter celebrates Mass una cum (i.e., he names the Pope and the local ordinary in the Eucharistic Prayer). If the priest is so “liberal” that he does not even do this, then I would suggest that there is no difference between him and a sedevacantist priest.

  66. Matthew Kennel says:

    RBrown,
    Are you psychic? :-) I was trained as an engineer, although I will soon be a theology graduate student.

    As for me being moralistic in my comments, I don’t see how they could be construed as such. I never said that attending SSPX chapels was in and of itself a sin. I never said that everyone in the SSPX is schismatic. I only said that attending an SSPX chapel could be an occasion of sin. I believe that, given the problems with the way mass is often celebrated in the Church today, it would be easy for a person to be pulled into the theological errors of the SSPX, and thus that people should use a good deal of caution in going to a SSPX chapel. Notice, I said I would “discourage” it, not prohibit it. If the SSPX is not a temptation, then why are there so many people in the SSPX?

    Your point that going to a NO mass could be an occasion of sin seems to be overstated. Sure, there can be bad preaching and poor celebration there. That can certainly lead people into error. But being led unconsciously into error is hardly the same as adhering to schism. In the former case, the responsibility falls on those who ought to have been preaching the Word correctly (you should hear what St. John Chrysostom has to say about the salvation of bishops in his book “On The Priesthood”). Also, do you not suppose that the Holy Spirit will protect from spiritual harm, those who attend mass at a legitimate parish? I certainly suppose that this is true. Remember, the Catholic Church, warts and all, is the Church that Christ himself established on earth. “He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.” (Jn. 15:5).

    Your brother in Christ,

    Matt Kennel

  67. Jay says:

    I found interesting link on the Fish eaters forum concerning arguments provided by one of the SSPX priests Fr Marshall for leaving Society in late nineties: http://www.websitetoolbox.com/tool/post/apologia/vpost?id=2052104
    Very interesting read.

  68. Brian Mershon says:

    Matt, Excuse me if I may interject, but what are the “theological errors” you believe the SSPX adheres to? Cardinal Castrillon has repeatedly said that he finds no schismatic attitude and no heresy with the SSPX, so if you detecet there may be some, I would be interested in exploring this.

  69. J says:

    Thanks for the clarification dcs!

  70. danphunter1 says:

    Jay,
    Very good letter by Father Marshall.He underscores very important considerations when one questions the authority of Peter.
    I did spot one mistake though: Father states”…in Ecclesia Dei Afflicta the document goes further and affirms that the priests and deacons of the Society also incur excommunication”.
    Maybe at the time Father wrote his letter this was thought to be the case, but Rome has since clarified this and stated that the priests and deacons of the Society are not excommunicated.
    God Bless you.

  71. dcs says:

    Fr Z., might I ask that if you are going to include the 1995 letter of the PCED as an addendum that you also include more recent correspondence on the issue? (Of course this being your blog, I propose, you dispose.) There is a letter of Msgr. Perl’s dated January 18, 2003 posted on the Una Voce web site:

    http://www.unavoce.org/articles/2003/perl-011803.htm

  72. dcs: I looked at that piece you link to. It doesn’t really add anything new to the discussion.

  73. Brian Mershon says:

    Dave, What 1995 letter are you referring to? Where did Fr. Z put this? Within the comments or in his original post?

    I have noticed a distinct difference in the tone and emphasis in the letters by Msgr. Perl that have been made public from prior to 2000 until now.

    One 1995 letter said it was “morally illicit” to attend Masses at the SSPX. The tune has obviously changed markedly since then despite no express official and universal direction from the PCED saying so.

  74. greg says:

    To Brian Mershon,

    Thank you for the outstanding article on the SSPX. I believe it is a “must read” for anyone wanting a comprehensive analysis of the SSPX’s canonical status. You have presented a view of this issue that’s rarely offered on mainstream Catholic websites.

    Keep up the good work!

  75. Rafael Cresci says:

    Father, please delete this comment as soon as you read it.
    Have you received some emails I sent you over the last weeks? I wonder they may not be reaching you, since I received no delivery confirmation and no reply from you.

  76. greg says:

    To Brian Mershon,

    Thank you for the outstanding article on the SSPX. I believe it is a “must read” for anyone wanting a comprehensive analysis of the SSPX’s canonical status. You have presented a view of this issue that’s rarely offered on mainstream Catholic websites.

    Keep up the good work!

  77. dcs says:

    Fr. Z.: What I was getting at is that there doesn’t seem to be anything in the 2003 Letter about a physical or moral impediment. Msgr. Perl says simply that “[i]f your intention is simply to participate in a Mass according to the 1962 Missal for the sake of devotion, this would not be a sin,” without saying anything about one being physically or morally impeded.

  78. Nathan says:

    +JMJ+
    Greetings, Father Zuhlsdorf—a question on the application of your advice. Would it be a physical or moral impediment in application if one went to Mass at an independent chapel on Ascension Thursday because the local ordinary had transferred the feast to a Sunday? I have done that when the diocesan-approved extraordinary form Mass on the following Sunday (where I attended regularly) is that of the Sunday After the Ascension. The chapel was the only place within a two hour drive where I could find Mass on the Holy Day.

    I don’t want to imply that I’m denying the bishop’s authority to transfer the feast—I only wanted to make it to the Mass of the Ascension, whether or not I was responsible for meeting the obligation.

    In Christ,

  79. schoolman says:

    Brian Mershon: “Matt, Excuse me if I may interject, but what are the “theological errors” you believe the SSPX adheres to? Cardinal Castrillon has repeatedly said that he finds no schismatic attitude and no heresy with the SSPX, so if you detecet there may be some, I would be interested in exploring this.”

    Brian, the problem here is when the SSPX claims that there are certain Vatican II or post-council teachings that are not reconcilable with the Faith or Tradition. That is another way to say that these are “heretical” teachings. Obviously the Church denies this, however, both can’t be correct. One or the other needs correction from “material heresy”. Which one?

  80. Chris says:

    I have followed this debate for some time (both literally this particular debate as well as the SSPX debate
    generally. I think Father Z’s treatment is fair of the SSPX question, which really does not lend itself
    to simple answers. My problem with the frequent condemnation of SSPX — or more aptly — the intense focus
    on its irregular status is that it obscures that we live (at least in First World countries) in an age of
    unprecendented withering of the Faith. Its almost as if the Bishops (at least in the US) do not care or do
    not believe. I apologize for painting with such a broad brush but I am so frustrated with the sheer lack of
    courage by our Bishops. SSPX is wrong to continue in their obstinance; but where is the outrage at the fact
    that you almost never hear a homily about the evils of birth control or the sanctity of marriage. How about
    the fact that (seemingly) anyone can get his marriage voided (i.e., catholic divorce). While I agree with
    Father Z’s comments and I also believe that SSPX cannot be condoned generally, I find it difficult to condemn
    people who are truly dedicated to a Church that many of its leaders seem bent on destroying. Sorry for the
    rant.

  81. Lee says:

    Father,
    If it were not for the traditional Roman Rite, my family and myself would not
    even be Catholic.
    I converted to the Church, and my wife reverted, specifically because we
    rediscovered our patrimony.
    If we were left with only the Novus Ordo, no matter how “reverently” performed,
    we would, as you say, never ‘darken the door’. And that’s flat.
    I no doubt would go back to my high church Anglicanism and say, Well, there it is.
    The Church of Rome is not the true Church.
    So I suppose, although there seem to be strings attached, it is this Rite which
    has “saved” us.
    For example, I DO recognize the importance of being in union with Rome (for
    neither would we be sedevacantists – which I think is a JOKE: you either “is or
    you isn’t”). But being in union means also being in union with the Church’s
    age-old lex credendi.
    For us it’s: No Roman Rite, No Pope. No Pope, No Roman Rite.

  82. Brian Mershon says:

    Schoolman, We can take this offline as we have before. My specific question centers around what specific theological errors has Matt heard at SSPX chapels that are not in line with Catholic teaching. To ignore Vatican II documents and teach the Faith as it has always been taught, by itself, is not a theological error in my estimation.

    I doubt that much in the way of true heresy comes from SSPX priests. Again, in my few occasions, I have never heard it. Just a sermon on the four end for which Mass is offered, on the gospels or on some doctrine. Never a discussion of ecumenism, false or true, religious liberty, etc.

    And since the Church has not authoritatively given a dogmatic pronouncement on ecumenism, inter-religious dialogue or religious liberty yet (and probably will not soon), I think much latitude is allowed as to what is a proper Cahtolic interpretation of these much debated teachings.

    The Institute of the Good Shepherd’s theological takes on Vatican II is not the mainstream understanding within the hierarchy of the Church–I can guarantee you that.

  83. Jordan Potter says:

    DCS said: What I was getting at is that there doesn’t seem to be anything in the 2003 Letter about a physical or moral impediment. Msgr. Perl says simply that “[i]f your intention is simply to participate in a Mass according to the 1962 Missal for the sake of devotion, this would not be a sin,” without saying anything about one being physically or morally impeded.

    If I’m not mistaken, the 1995 statement was public, but the 2003 letter was private. The person Msgr. Perl was privately writing to may not have had any physical or moral impediment, so he wouldn’t have had to mention those points. It doesn’t seem likely that Msgr. Perl’s failure to cite canon 844.2 means the faithful are not bound by canon 844.2 any more. (I don’t mean that’s what you’re arguing, dcs. Just sharing my train of thought.)

  84. Matthew Kennel says:

    I don’t think that the discussion of particular theological errors is necessarily germane
    to this discussion thread. Suffice it to say, a quick scan of the frequently asked questions
    on their official web site turned up several egregious theological errors. There was even one question that suggested that Vatican II
    established a new religion. This is really their fundamental error, which ironically is the same as that of
    the “Spirit of Vatican II” people. Both think that Vatican II established a new religion, one side accepts
    it with joy, the other rejects it with scorn. The right course, the one in keeping with the Catholic tradition
    is certainly the interpretation of continuity that the Holy Father has advocated. I believe this is a rabbit
    trail, which Fr. Z would proably not want us to continue, but would be happy to continue discussion offline
    if you so desire.

    Yours in Christ,

    Matt Kennel

  85. Jordan Potter says:

    John H wrote: Jordan, You wrote, “Nor is it an unjust law that the Holy Sacrifice be offered at liturgies that are approved explicitly or tacitly by the diocesan bishop.” This seems to be the root of the problem. The MP states that the TLM was never abrogated, yet bishops overstepped their authority by abrogating it in the Diocese, or by limiting it so severely and in such ridiculous ways that it was practically non-existent for the faithful desiring it.

    John, the question of the legal right of priests to celebrate the 1962 Mass is 1) no longer in doubt, and 2) has no bearing on the status of SSPX priests. Bishops do not overstep their authority to insist that canon law be followed in the matter of priests getting faculties before celebrating Mass or the other sacraments in their dioceses. (A bishop can’t even baptise anybody when visiting another diocese unless the bishop there gives him permission.) This isn’t a matter of what rite, or what use or form of rite, is being celebrated. It’s a matter of whether a priest is permitted to celebrate any kind of Mass at all. SSPX priests are suspended, and therefore cannot celebrate Mass: not the Tridentine, not the Pauline, not in Latin, not in English or French or whatever. So I repeat, it is not an unjust law that the Holy Sacrifice be offered at liturgies that are approved explicitly or tacitly by the diocesan bishop. So the disobedience of the SSPX priests is not justifiable.

    The SSPX priests aren’t suspended because they celebrate the traditional Latin Mass (for that has never been against the laws of the Church), but because they were ordained illicitly by bishops who were consecrated illicitly.

  86. Matthew Kennel says:

    I’m sorry. My last post was in response to Brian Mershon. Should have specified that up front.

  87. Breier says:

    Jordan,

    The posted letter is giving the context of the response. It
    was written with the intention of public distribution.
    It seems to say that, for the right intention, it is not
    a sin to attend a SSPX Mass.

    “If your primary reason for attending were to manifest your
    desire to separate yourself from communion with the Roman
    Pontiff and those in communion with him, it would be a sin.
    If your intention is simply to participate in a Mass according
    to the 1962 Missal for the sake of devotion, this would not be
    a sin.”

    Jordan, isn’t the conclusion that Canon 844.2 doesn’t apply?
    That canon deals with non-Catholic ministers. Here we would
    have a conclusion that the SSPX, whatever their status,
    are Catholic ministers. Therefore the canon does not
    apply to their situation. Here’s the text of Canon 844.2

    Ҥ2. Whenever necessity requires it or true spiritual advantage
    suggests it, and provided that danger of error or of
    indifferentism is avoided, the Christian faithful for whom it
    is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic
    minister are permitted to receive the sacraments of penance,
    Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic
    ministers in whose Churches these sacraments are valid.”

  88. Breier says:

    Moreover, if one decided to classify the SSPX priests as “non-Catholic”, and the requisite physical or moral
    impossibility the canon allows for the reception
    of the sacrament of the Eucharist.

    I think it’s hard to call a Catholic priest suspended
    a divinis “non-Catholic.” Perhaps non-Catholic is a
    canonical term of art that includes such priests, but
    the plain meaning seems to cut against it. Isn’t it
    possible for a Catholic minister to suffer from various
    canonical penalities (excommunication even!) without
    becoming “non-Catholic”? It seems that the tone
    of the PCED has changed, which we clearly see in the
    more recent statements of Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos.

  89. John H says:

    Jordan,

    I still think your missing the point. These priests, one may even concede that no priest would now have the ability to say the TLM if it were not for the fight put forth by the SSPX. Many priests of the Society (not those before 1988) were ordained illicitly, but this was done precisely so they could say the TLM without prohibition from the local ordinary. Now insofar as this prohibition by Bishops was and still is illicit in itself, and was and still is enforced by many, I still think the case can be made that SSPX priests had little choice but to seek to be ordained in their irregular status. Again, a bad law is no law. SSPX seminarians would have to subject themselves to this bad law under their local ordinaries, so they can I think be mitigated (at least morally) of their illicit status and therefore be said to be obedient to the Holy Father.

    Consider this, what if the bishop said you could be confirmed only if you participated in what you considered nothing less than sacrilege, would you be required to receive confirmation in this way? I think not. Many bishops of the US and Europe have done just this with the Mass. They have subjected the faithful to not only rampant liturgical abuses that stray from the rubics, but abuses that are so offensive to the Most Holy Sacrifice that I cannot see how they are not considered sacrilege. Is a priest obligated to submit himself to the authority of such evil practices?

  90. Jordan Potter says:

    John H said: I still think your missing the point. These priests, one may even concede that no priest would now have the ability to say the TLM if it were not for the fight put forth by the SSPX.

    So, let us do evil that good may come of it? Does the Devil deserve praise for orchestrating the death of Jesus whereby mankind was redeemed? You’re trying to make a case that intentionally seeking illicit ordination can be justified by a desire to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass. That amounts to doing evil in order to obtain a good result. Even if you obtain a good result, it doesn’t make your actions good.

    Many priests of the Society (not those before 1988) were ordained illicitly, but this was done precisely so they could say the TLM without prohibition from the local ordinary. Now insofar as this prohibition by Bishops was and still is illicit in itself, and was and still is enforced by many, I still think the case can be made that SSPX priests had little choice but to seek to be ordained in their irregular status.

    The attempted abrogation of the traditional Mass was illicit and unjust, but it is not illicit and unjust for the Church to insist that priests not be ordained illicitly, and to suspend priests that seek and obtain illicit ordination.

    Again, a bad law is no law.

    The law that requires priests to be ordained licitly, and that requires that they maintain communion with and obedience to the bishop, is a good law, not a bad law. Therefore your argument fails, and the Church remains justified in her suspension of SSPX priests.

    SSPX seminarians would have to subject themselves to this bad law under their local ordinaries, so they can I think be mitigated (at least morally) of their illicit status and therefore be said to be obedient to the Holy Father.

    Every time a bishop attempted to suspend a priest for celebrating the traditional Latin Mass, if that suspension was appealed to the Holy See, the Holy See always overturned the attempted suspension. So the SSPX priests are without excuse if that was their reason for sidestepping the Church’s legitimate pastors in seeking ordination. (But the SSPX problem isn’t just about the traditional Latin Mass. There are deeper theological and doctrinal disagreements that must be worked out. The SSPX didn’t form itself as a Traditional Latin Mass Preservation Society, but was founded to maintain Msgr. Lefebvre’s understanding of what the authentic Catholic faith really is.)

    The Church’s suspension of SSPX priests cannot be nullified by appeals to the principle of “a bad law is no law.” The laws that these priests violated and are still violating are good laws, so it remains the case that those faithful who assist at their Masses are objectively participants in the priest’s objective disobedience.

    Breier said: It was written with the intention of public distribution.

    After the private letter was made public without any of the context, if I recall correctly.

    Jordan, isn’t the conclusion that Canon 844.2 doesn’t apply? That canon deals with non-Catholic ministers. Here we would
    have a conclusion that the SSPX, whatever their status,
    are Catholic ministers. Therefore the canon does not
    apply to their situation.

    Yes, you could be right. In 1995, the judgment of Ecclesa Dei apparently was that the SSPX priests were not Catholic, but by 2003 that judgment may have been reversed. Perhaps. It’s hard to tell, since it’s an argument from silence. The lack of the citation of canon 844.2 could mean (and probably means) that the Church officially regards the SSPX priests as Catholic (that is, not schismatic), or it could mean that Msgr. Perl just didn’t cite the canon. In any case, the 1995 citation of the canon was a “cf.,” indicating that the basic principle expressed there applied to the faithful in regards to SSPX Masses whether or not the SSPX priests are “non-Catholic” and whether or not the SSPX is in schism.

  91. ben whitworth says:

    Fr Z,

    in what possible sense is the Divine Liturgy at an Orthodox church NOT a Catholic Rite? The Liturgy of
    Saint John Chrysostom is the same whether celebrated by a Greek Catholic or a Greek Orthodox priest, give
    or take the prayer ‘for the Pope of Rome’. Are you seriously suggesting that, if travelling in Greece, a
    Roman Catholic does not satisfy the Sunday obligation by attending the Divine Liturgy in the local church?

    This is not the main topic of your post, but I find your statement interesting and would like to know
    more about your reasoning!

  92. dcs says:

    ben whitworth asks:
    Are you seriously suggesting that, if travelling in Greece, a
    Roman Catholic does not satisfy the Sunday obligation by attending the Divine Liturgy in the local church?

    I think what Fr. Z. is suggesting is that the Sunday obligation does not apply to such a person.

    You can’t fulfill your Sunday obligation at an Orthodox church, but you might attend an Orthodox Divine Liturgy on Sundays where your obligation does not apply because of grave inconvenience, etc.

  93. DCS:

    I think what Mr Withworth is asking is (and I hope I do justice to him), what does A have that B does not have?

    If one can fulfill one’s obligation at an SSPX chapel, why can one not do so at an Orthodox Church, given the same circumstances? Is it because one is a “Catholic Rite” and the other is not? Because I know some Eastern Rite Catholics who would beg to differ on the latter (and they’d be right). Is it because the circumstances are indeed different, that one is in “imperfect communion” and the other in formal schism?

    And while we’re at it, if fulfilling my obligation at an SSPX chapel is possible, why does the PCED recommend against it? I know how I would answer that, but I’m wondering if advocates of the idea really think it matters.

  94. dcs says:

    David L Alexander asks:
    I think what Mr Withworth is asking is (and I hope I do justice to him), what does A have that B does not have?

    The Catholic Faith?

    The priests of the SSPX are suspended; Orthodox priests are schismatic. One can more readily receive the Sacraments from suspended priests than schismatic priests. Of course in ideal circumstances one shouldn’t do either, and that is likely why the PCED does not recommend assisting at SSPX Masses.

  95. John H says:

    Jordan,

    it remains the case that those faithful who assist at [SSPX] Masses are objectively participants in the priest’s objective disobedience

    I do not dispute the objective aspect of this statement. Would it also not be the case that Novus Ordo attendees objectively participate in objective (and even what is often to be considered sacreligous) liturgical disobedience? In both cases the only party who would be at fault is the person actually performing the illicit actions. The faithul are not culpable for the sins of their priests.

    Every time a bishop attempted to suspend a priest for celebrating the traditional Latin Mass, if that suspension was appealed to the Holy See, the Holy See always overturned the attempted suspension. So the SSPX priests are without excuse if that was their reason for sidestepping the Church’s legitimate pastors in seeking ordination.

    Of course a priest has recourse to Rome and although I know of no cases personally, I assume you are correct in stating this. However; a seminarian is not granted the same benefit. I know of a number of seminarians who were turned away from ordination for being orthodox or traditional in various respects. Are these men to reject their vocation because their Bishop is an apparent enemy to Catholic Tradition? As far as I know, non-clerical seminarians cannot appeal to Rome in this case as a priest could, for ordination is not a right, it is a duty assigned by the Church. If our Bishops refuse to assign dutiful ministers, then to whom do we go, and to whom do those potential ministers go?

  96. “The Catholic Faith.”

    The Orthodox Church also believes in the essentials of the Faith. (I actually read where Cardinal Oddi said this in an interview in 1982 or ’83, in The Wanderer. I was surprised as well.) This, even though they’re in formal schism.

    In addition, The Orthodox Churches possess “Catholic Rites.” This by the definition set by the Catholic Church (as opposed to that small group of traditionalists who believe that Rome merely “tolerates” Eastern traditions, which is nonsense). To say otherwise is to say that Eastern churches in communion with Rome do not possess them either, ergo that they are not truly Catholic, ergo that if the SSPX does have Catholic Rites, communion with Rome must by admission be irrelevant.

    Is anyone suggesting that imperfect communion with Rome is a remedy to provide “ideal circumstances”?

  97. John H says:

    David Alexander,

    How can one claim the Orthodox possess the ‘essentials’ of the faith when they reject submission to the Holy Roman Pontiff? Would not the bull Unam Sanctam detailing the requirement for this submission for salvation by His Holiness Pope Bonivace VIII supercede the judgements made by Cardinal Oddi? Does not the rejection of the Immaculate Conception make one a formal heretic and therefore, in an objective state of grave sin? I think one may be entering into the heresy of pluralism if he were to think the Orthodox believe the ‘essentials’ of the faith.

  98. anonymous from Michigan says:

    I remember speaking to the rector of a seminary in California and upon mentioning that I was a convert from Greek Orthodoxy he remarked “Why would you do that?”. The official policy (I am not saying that it is official Church doctrine) is that we will no longer speak of the Orthodox returning to the Catholic Church since they are now called “Sister Churches”. Yet the fact remains, the Orthodox are at odds with Catholic teaching regarding the Papacy, Infallibility, and the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. Be careful saying that the Orthodox believe in the ‘essentials’ of the faith. Otherwise, what shall we make of the many Eastern Catholic martyrs who died rather than becoming Orthodox? Would we consider this merely a condition of the times perhaps constituting mere politics?

    While the Orthodox have retained a valid priesthood and sacramental system the points of disagreement with the Catholic Church cannot be swept aside because of 40 years of Ecumenism.

  99. anonymous from Michigan says:

    I remember speaking to the rector of a seminary in California and upon mentioning that I was a convert from Greek Orthodoxy he remarked “Why would you do that?”. The official policy (I am not saying that it is official Church doctrine) is that we will no longer speak of the Orthodox returning to the Catholic Church since they are now “Sister Churches”. Yet the fact remains, the Orthodox are at odds with Catholic teaching regarding the Papacy, Infallibility, and the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. Be careful saying that the Orthodox believe in the ‘essentials’ of the faith. Otherwise, what shall we make of the many Eastern Catholic martyrs who died rather than becoming Orthodox? Would we consider this merely a condition of the times perhaps constituting mere politics?

    While the Orthodox have retained a valid priesthood and sacramental system the points of disagreement with the Catholic Church cannot be swept aside because of 40 years of Ecumenism.

  100. Richard T says:

    The Ecclesia Dei Commission’s letter of 18th January 2003 does seem to deal fully with the whole issue of attending SSPX Masses:

    “1. In the strict sense you may fulfill your Sunday obligation by attending a Mass celebrated by a priest of the Society of St. Pius X.”

    “2. We have already told you that we cannot recommend your attendance at such a Mass and have explained the reason why. If your primary reason for attending were to manifest your desire to separate yourself from communion with the Roman Pontiff and those in communion with him, it would be a sin. If your intention is simply to participate in a Mass according to the 1962 Missal for the sake of devotion, this would not be a sin.”

    See the whole thing at http://www.unavoce.org/articles/2003/perl-011803.htm

    Clearly the licit Masses that one could attend instead will have a bearing on one’s motive, but it is much more about searching one’s soul. I have attended SSPX Masses, although I don’t do so at present, and I was careful to only do so once or twice a month so that I was not risking schism (or pride) by avoiding my parish Novus Ordo.

    There is also the question of receiving communion. I haven’t received at SSPX Masses, but then I don’t receive very often anyway (although I make a point of receiving when my Bishop comes on his parish visitations, lest anyone thinks that I am deliberately avoiding communion with him).

    As an interesting aside, at the SSPX Mass I attended the priest’s stated position was that he accepts the authority of the Pope, but is just not obeying it at the moment.

  101. “2. We have already told you that we cannot recommend your attendance at such a Mass and have explained the reason why…”

    Not that that matters to anyone here. After all, it is a “Catholic Rite.” So as to the Pope’s authority, I’m “just not obeying it at the moment.” I don’t have to. I have a loophole.

  102. Brian Mershon says:

    David,

    It is obvious to me, if not to others, that when a Catholic writes to the PCED asking if it is a sin to attend Mass ato fulfill his Sunday obligation at an SSPX, that he is good intentioned and striving to do everything he can to stay in full communion. The fact that the official Church structures “cannot recommend attendance at such a Mass” simply does not asnwer the question as to whether or not it is a sin.

    I have two personal letters from the PCED since the 2003 letter that is public, where the PCED refuses to answer the question of whether or not a Catholic can receive Holy Communion at the SSPX chapels. Therefore, since the question is no t answered, I have concluded that if it were a sin, then the PCED surely would be responsible to tell me so. Receiving Holy Communion from a priest who believes the Catholic Faith, whole and entire, is not the same as receiving the sacraments from an Orthodox priest. They do not believe the same Faith. That should be obvious to all.

    The fact that the PCED has officially ruled with a moral certitude for those acting upon their answers should be enough for you and everyone on this forum. You can call it a loophole. I would call it requesting a clear answer from the Church through the PCED, and not receiving one, other than it is not a sin to fulfill one’s Sunday obligation at an SSPX chapel. For anyone who has read the article I authored, I have also quoted a PCED letter further defining what the Holy Seee declares to be “adherence to the schism” from the Ecclesia Dei letter of Pope John Paul II. Since there is no formal “schism” now, per the PCED, it is strange to define adherence to something that does not exist, but nonetheless, the correspondence said that Catholics baptized by SSPX priests should be registered in parish directories as Catholic baptisms. The priests should not presume anything ill toward the parents or the baptized person and they should be treated as Catholics. Apparently, prior to this, the Archdiocese was treating them as non-Catholic Christians. The PCED also clarified that if a Catholic who attended the SSPX chapels regularly did not publicly manifest (as an article of Faith perhaps) thathe believed the SSPX was the one true Church, then he should be considered a Catholic in good standing.

    Last I checked, the Greeks believe they are the one, true Church and they refuse the sacraments to Catholics, even in danger of death.

    In any event, obviously the individual circumstances surrounding potential attendance at SSPX chapels varies by persoan and family and diocese and location. This “moral impediment” as Fr. Z outlined, and the PCED outlined in its letter could consist in a variety of things.

    You call it a “loophole.” If that’s what you think, so be it. I call it faithfully obeying the Church in a time of crisis. The PCED represents the opinion of the Holy See, and thus the Pope.

    I pray primarily for a wide and generous application of the Traditional Latin Mass at a convenient time and place in dioceses throughout the world. I pray for futher clarifications like the one that came on “subsists” meaning the word “is.”

    I pray for an end to false ecumenism and the false understanding of religious liberty that is not in keeping with Tradition and has infected the entire Church in order to work against itself.

    In the meantime, I thank God the SSPX has continued to bring the Catholic Faith and traditional Mass to location s aroudnthe world where the Church leaders have abdicated their responsibilities. I pray for a full canonical solution soon.

    And I pray all will be obedient to Holy Mother Church, even its “loopholes” as some call them.

  103. RBrown says:

    RBrown,

    Are you psychic? :-) I was trained as an engineer, although I will soon be a theology graduate student.

    As I said, I’ve had students in my theology classes with backgrounds in engineering. They bring with them certain habits of thought, some of which are helpful in theological study, and others that are not.

    As for me being moralistic in my comments, I don’t see how they could be construed as such. I never said that attending SSPX chapels was in and of itself a sin. I never said that everyone in the SSPX is schismatic. I only said that attending an SSPX chapel could be an occasion of sin. I believe that, given the problems with the way mass is often celebrated in the Church today, it would be easy for a person to be pulled into the theological errors of the SSPX, and thus that people should use a good deal of caution in going to a SSPX chapel. Notice, I said I would “discourage” it, not prohibit it. If the SSPX is not a temptation, then why are there so many people in the SSPX?
    Matt Kennel

    If you’re going to reduce the argument to exposure to theological errors, then you’re going to have to include most of the Novus Ordo masses I’ve attended since 1970, when I converted.

    So you’re saying that Latin liturgy is a temptation?

    IMHO, there are three reasons why people attend SSPX chapels.

    1. They want Latin liturgy.

    2. They are justifiably disgusted with what has gone on in the Catholic Church for the past 35 years.

    3. They are inclined to a by-the-numbers approach to matters of the faith.

    I think #1 & #2 apply to almost everyone but not #3.

  104. RBrown says:

    The laws that these priests violated and are still violating are good laws, so it remains the case that those faithful who assist at their Masses are objectively participants in the priest’s objective disobedience.
    Comment by Jordan Potter

    Material participants, yes. But we cannot assume they are objective participants.

    Objective = formal + material.

  105. Jordan Potter says:

    John H said: Are these men to reject their vocation because their Bishop is an apparent enemy to Catholic Tradition? As far as I know, non-clerical seminarians cannot appeal to Rome in this case as a priest could, for ordination is not a right, it is a duty assigned by the Church.

    No, they needn’t reject their vocations. They might try findig a bishop who doesn’t weed out orthodox seminarians. But, since ordination i not a right, it cannot be right for them to go to an illicitly-consecrated bishop for ordination.

    There’s another issue that enters into this: though I don’t believe it is an official position of the SSPX, I believe there are SSPX members who have cast doubt on whether or not the revised Ordination rite validly confers the sacrament of Holy Orders. So, sometimes these illictly-ordained priests may have sought out illegal ordination because they think the Church has stopped ordaining true priests. In such cases there can be no doubt that the Church is right to suspend them.

  106. Brian Mershon says:

    “Objective = formal + material”

    As long as we’re on this topic, let us use an analogy. Nearly every single diocese in the United States, except mabye frthe diocese of Lincoln, they have implemented a “child protection” program that is directed toward Catholic school and religious education students. In this case, I am not referring to the adult “child protection” programs that are just as hideous. In any case, these specific programs, almost 100 percent of them, are developed by “sex experts” and the system used is exactly the same one used over the past 35 years to introduce “sex education” into U.S. schools, first in high school, and now in grade schools throughout the country–both government and Catholic. Many of these “sex experts” were sexually abused as children and/or have other histories such as being interviewed in prominent girlie magazines, are former priests who have never been laicized, etc.

    These programs are condemned by “The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality.” Anyone paying any attention to this knowns it has died down, as it inevitably does, and parents have submitted their children to the good graces of their diocesan policy makers and bishops, thinking these programs will help, when substantial evidence shows they actually harm the childrens psychologically and spiritually, and are not effective as deterrents. Oh, and they also violate the innocence of young children and violate Church teaching regarding the parents being the primary educators whose duties in these areas cannot be delegated. In addition to this, most parishes take up second collections and/or take a “tithe” out of their fist collection and apply it to the second collection without the consent of the lay faithful. Many of these second collections in the U.S. are earmarked for socialist, anti-Church, anti-life organizations that are in direct conflict with Church teaching. Campaign for Human Development and Catholic Charities are two notable examples. There are many others.

    So do the vast majority of Catholics who participate in these diocesan programs and give money willingly, participate in sinful behavior or the proximate occasion of sin since these are in direct violation of Church teaching?

    I venture to say that “child protection programs” (Why aren’t these programs directed toward the priests rather than the laity?) are not part of SSPX chapels. They also do not give funding for anti-life organizations to the tune of dollars.

    Why is no one concerned about this “material cooperation”?

  107. John H says:

    Jordan,

    they needn’t reject their vocations. They might try findig a bishop who doesn’t weed out orthodox seminarians.

    Does this mean that only the faithful in those diocese have a right to the Traditional sacraments and Traditional Catholic teaching? Or can one be justified in seeking ‘illicit’ ordination and disobey apparently bad bishops who incorrectly apply an objectively good law?

  108. Matthew Kennel says:

    RBrown asks, “So you’re saying that Latin liturgy is a temptation?”

    Not Latin liturgy as such. If you thought that I said that the Latin liturgy (by which inexact designation I assume you mean the extraordinary form of the Latin rite) is a temptation, then you have for a second time misconstrued my words. In fact, I said previously in these comments, “I love the extraordinary form.” The liturgies that I am describing are being said by priests who are suspended a divinis. These people do not have faculties to perform the sacraments. Are you really suggesting that more harm will come objectively speaking from attending a legitimate liturgy being offered by a priest in full union with the Catholic Church than by attending a liturgy being offered by a suspended member of the clergy? Are you saying that for the salvation of our immortal souls we must avoid churches in full, unencumbered union with Catholic Church? I will readily admit that some churches may have priests in them who are quite dangerous to the faith. Nonetheless, I can count on one hand the number of times that I’ve actually heard someone promote heresy in the past 4 years, and I certainly think I would be inclined to spot it.

  109. Brian:

    The intentions of individual correspondents do not concern me. Nor does the exercise of the Apostolic See in regulating the sacred liturgy. What does concern me is when an answer to such a correspondent from said regulator is not clear, and the one to which you refer is not. As if I haven’t done so enough already, I will again explain how.

    It says on one hand that an exercise involving an admittedly illicit act is, in fact, appropriate for accomplishing a licit purpose. On the other hand, for reasons that may well involve that contradiction, I don’t know, they recommend against such an exercise. On top of that, writers such as yourself appeal to the obvious sympathies of their audience, in what would appear to be learning to wink at such inconsistencies, provided ones end is achieved.

    Yes, Rome is the lawgiver. That is not in dispute. But the purpuse of law is to create order out of chaos. This may involve greater or lesser complexity, but ultimately it provides clarity. I have drawn conclusions in this thread which would demonstrate why the PCED statement may not provide sufficient clarity. As it stands now, an unlawful means may be used to accomplish a lawful end. This is what they are saying. This is what you are defending. Opinion is irrelevant, these are the facts, this is the evidence to support them. I do not blame you for favoring the results. You are in no position to blame me for shedding light on the potential problems with those results. This does not disparage the Traditional Mass; rather, it upholds the right of the Apostolic See to regulate it, and to protect it — indeed, it implores them to do precisely that.

    Members of the faithful have the right to bring legitimate concerns to the sacred pastors of the Church. You have brought yours. This is mine.

  110. dcs says:

    David L Alexander writes:
    As it stands now, an unlawful means may be used to accomplish a lawful end.

    It is the priest that is using the unlawful means, not (necessarily) the people who assist at his Masses. I think of it as being similar to the situation in which a priest does not have faculties to hear confessions, and a particular layman knows he does not have those faculties, but because of common error jurisdiction is supplied and the absolution is valid. It is still illicit for the priest to hear that confession — but it is not illicit for the lay penitent.

    Hope this helps.

  111. DCS:

    (I don’t know if my previous attempt to reply went through. Forgive me…)

    Thank you for responding. I’m not sure the comparison is fair. In the matter of confession, validity is dependent upon jurisdiction, plus there is some question as to whether the penitent was aware of the state of things. As to attendance at Mass, one is a participant, and in the case of the celebration of Mass, one who attends is cooperating.

    Thanks for trying to help though.

  112. FWIW, I too pray for a reconciliation between Rome and the SSPX. I have supported their publishing house, Angelus Press, which produces some excellent products for the classical Roman liturgy. Our discussion should not be interpreted as taking away from a desire for an eventual reunion.

  113. Jordan Potter says:

    Does this mean that only the faithful in those diocese have a right to the Traditional sacraments and Traditional Catholic teaching? Or can one be justified in seeking ‘illicit’ ordination and disobey apparently bad bishops who incorrectly apply an objectively good law?

    The supreme law of the Church is the law of charity. Out of charity, bishops ought not deprive any of the faithful, even seminarians, of the sacraments if they are rightly disposed to receive them. A seminarian, however, requests the sacrament of Holy Orders, which loses its effectiveness without humility and obedience. A seminarian ought not insist on his desire for a pre-Vatican II ordination to the point that he foregoes ordination altogether unless he can have his desire. The faithful have their rights, but ought to exercise their rights in charity. A Christian is not someone who insists on his rights at all costs, but can yield his place for the sake of another.

    As for seeking ordination from excommunicated bishops, no, that is never permissible. It’s self-defeating: “I can’t get ordination from any bishops in communion with the Holy See, so I will go outside the Church for ordination.” How does that help the faithful? As soon as you’re ordained, you are suspended from the priesthood and incapable of serving the faithful you purported vowed to serve. It makes as much sense as, and is just as acceptable as, a couple who gets married outside the Church because they can’t wait for the Church to grant an annulment. If you think the sin of illicit ordination and illicitly confecting the Eucharist can be justifiable, then you shouldn’t have any problem justifying couples who remarry without annulment, or who use contraception.

  114. Jordan Potter says:

    Once again I forgot to say who I was replying to. It was John H.

    RBrown said: Material participants, yes. But we cannot assume they are objective participants.

    Objectively, they are participating in a Mass which is itself an act of disobedience on the part of the priest. So, objectively, they are participating in another’s disobedience. Subjectively, their cooperation may be material only but not also formal, so that their culpability would be mitigated. But objectively, to assist at an illegal Mass is to help a priest violate the laws of the Church.

  115. John H says:

    Jordan says,

    If you think the sin of illicit ordination and illicitly confecting the Eucharist can be justifiable, then you shouldn’t have any problem justifying couples who remarry without annulment, or who use contraception.

    Speaking of charity, how about not putting words in my mouth and giving me the benefit of the doubt in those matters? I am not a formal heretic (though through ignorance I think most are materially so), nor do I dissent from legitimate authority.

    Back to the issue:
    As for seeking ordination from excommunicated bishops, no, that is never permissible.

    I am no expert on Church history, but did not the Maronite priests for some time, who never separated from Rome, receive Ordination from Schismatic Eastern Bishops for lack of choice? It would seem there are circumstances then that allow for irregular ordination. This does not make it truly illicit for lack of choice. Obviously the SSPX situation is different and less desirable.

    A seminarian ought not insist on his desire for a pre-Vatican II ordination to the point that he foregoes ordination altogether unless he can have his desire.

    This is not simply a matter of a pre-Vatican II liturgy, though Quo Primum would seem to even justify this. This is a Matter of being allowed to preach the Catholic Faith, which as I said before is actually been considered grounds for dismissal for a number of seminarians. I do believe the faithful have not only a right, but a need for this, and when their local Ordinary refuses to fulfill this need, to whom should they go? Are they to be deprived of the faith because of the letter of the law? As far as I know, Canon law always places the salvation of souls above the letter of the law. Anyone can baptize in an emergency for lack of priest, is it not allowed that in the case of an emergency one can receive the other sacraments in an irregular manner? I would of course rather have priests ordained in the ordinary manner, but the world is not always black and white.

  116. Michaela says:

    to add to rbrown major reasons for assisting at SSPX masses
    4. To get solid traditional catechesis in sermons – in regular parishes, you don’t really know what you are going to get – although some of it is very good, it’s really a mixed bag. However, at our SSPX chapel, it is straight and undiluted: the four last things, the saints, penance, the true meaning of the sacrifice of the mass and so forth. You rarely hear the like in the diocesen churches and we all need to hear it. BTW – I have never heard one peep against the Vatican or the Pope or the local bishop in two the plus years that I have been there. Only support and prayers for the Pope and the Church.
    5. To ensure the survival of the SSPX – because if they went away tomorrow I am not sure what would happen to the traditional movement within the Church. I don’t want to risk it at this point – especially now that it really seems to be taking hold.