I got a question via e-mail:
Dear Fr. Z.,
I thank you for your great column. It is the liturgical DrudgeReport, the one I check whenever I can.
In your recent post on attending Mass at SSPX and fulfillment of one’s Sunday obligation, the commenter "Bill" posted a link to a letter by Msgr. Perl which stated the SSPX priests are suspended from exercising their priestly ministry.
I live in ___ where there is the ___ which offers all the rites according to 1962 administered by the FSSP. My question is, in such a situation, where the EF is celebrated with episcopal permisssion and support, is one legitimately permitted still to attend a Mass celebrated by the SSPX priests? Does one’s fulfillment of the Sunday obligation, in this instance, also manifest an adherence to the schism? Or can something as better Mass times (which SSPX does have) justify one’s attence there?
I know many people who continue to attend the SSPX Masses. Your help in this would be greatly appreciated.
I thank you for all your efforts. As I have said before, your blog and Wanderer Column have given me the greatest ammo against "Traditionalists" who argue the invalidity of the OF.
A couple of things.
First, even if there is a legitimate chapel in union with Rome and the local bishop one still fulfills one’s Mass obligation attending Mass at an illegitimate chapel of the SSPX. However, it seems to me that there would be little reason to attend a Mass at an SSPX chapel under those circumstances, unless, perhaps, you are going for some event, such as the confirmation of the children of friends or family, etc. I would say also that Catholics can go to the churches of non-Catholics for certain great occasions as well. However, I will add that I do not advocate the reception of Holy Communion at an SSPX chapel when there is not long hardship involved in receiving sacraments from a legitimate parish or chapel.
Second, I think it is very hard to determine what "adherence" to schism means for lay people. For priests or bishops I think it is less problematic. If one receives, for example, ordination from a schismatic bishop, or takes orders and salarly from a schismatic group, as well as self-identification with them, that seems to me to be adherence to schism. For lay people? I don’t know. I don’t know if it involves giving money or time or whether it needs a formal written declaration, etc. So, perhaps we should be very careful applying the terms "adherence to schism" to lay people.
Third, I think there is a lot of confusion these days about whether the SSPX is, in fact, "schismatic". I know that Pope John Paul used the term in his Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei adflicta. I know that the bishops and priests of that Society refuse submission to the Roman Pontiff. I also know that high ranking prelates such as Card. Castrillon Hoyos have been saying that the SSPX is not schismatic. So, we can think in terms of the "duck argument", or we can leave this to a far higher pay grade than I have (which is as low as it gets these days).
I think there are very few good reasons for why, if there is a legitimate alternative for sacraments in the older form, one would choose to attend a chapel of the SSPX without the motive of some special event in favor of people with whom you have ties.
At this point I also want to add that I have great respect for some priests of the SSPX and I long for the day when we no longer have to bicker about this stuff. But my longing for full and unquestionable unity will not override my conviction that when there are a couple alternatives, none necessarily perfect, then one must opt for the legitimate alternative. One must choose manifest unity with the Pope and the local bishop, even though perhaps something "nicer" can be found elsewhere.
The great Fathers of the Church had a horror of schism. Whatever else might be said, the situation of the SSPX seems very much like schism in some aspects, even if it is not formally schism (which is above my pay grade to determine). A persons unity with the local bishop and obedience to the Successor of Peter is of huge importance for the life of the Church and for the individual.
Endangering that unity through frequenting illegitimate chapels (when there are legitimate alternatives – even if they aren’t perfect) strikes me as seriously imprudent for the good of one’s soul and the scandal it can cause for others.
Finally, it is absurd to claim that the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite is "invalid". That is simply kooky. You can argue that it is "inferior", or that it in some respects it has flaws in the texts of prayers, or that it should never have been implemented in the first place, or that it is not what the Council actually asked for, etc. but it is weird to say that it is not valid.