ASK FATHER: Do I fulfill my Sunday obligation at an Eastern or SSPX church?

Russian_CatholicFrom a reader…

Are SSPX Masses and Eucharist licit for Roman Catholics? This Triduum was heart-wrenching as we had the “full band” (organ, piano, guitar, drums and cymbals) playing during Holy Thursday AND Good Friday!

There is no Tridentine Mass celebrated in my area. I have increasing doubts as to the validity of the NO. There is an SSPX parish several towns over, also a Ukranian Byzantine Catholic Church within 45 minutes of here. I love God, and I love my faith, but truly feel the NO has been protestantized (is that even a word?). Yes, I have spoken to our priests. Their responses were “I’ve heard that from several other parshioners as well”.

I’m sorry that you have had to suffer in that way.

Without question the Novus Ordo is valid.  The Eucharist is confected and Holy Mass is celebrated.  Sadly, the Novus Ordo lends itself to abuses.   However, it can be celebrated reverently and in a traditional way.  If it is possible to protestantize the NO it is also possible to traditionalize it. Way too much depends on the whims of the priest and those whom he designates to help.

And now to the question which has been answered here many times before.

Masses celebrated by the SSPX are valid.  They have valid Holy Orders.  They validly consecrate the Eucharist.  They undoubtedly celebrate Mass using a Catholic rite, since it is the legitimate traditional Roman Rite which was never abrogated, even with the introduction of the Novus Ordo.

The Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church says:

can. 1248 1. The precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day.

This means that if you go to a chapel of the SSPX on the day of precept (such as a Sunday) or the evening before and attend Holy Mass, you fulfill your obligation… silly claims to the contrary notwithstanding.

The Holy See has clarified that this is so.

Also, there is no question that you fulfill your obligation by attending the Divine Liturgy of a Catholic (not Orthodox) Eastern Church, such as the Ukrainian Catholic Church or a Maronite Catholic Church, etc.   They, too, celebrate in a Catholic Rite.  You may go to these churches and you may receive Holy Communion.  I suggest that you not be the first to present yourself for Communion if you are not familiar with how it is distributed.  It is distributed by the priest with a spoon directly into the mouth.  Watch others first.  Do not close your mouth on the spoon!  That’s a no no.   Attending Eastern Catholic Divine Liturgy can be a tremendous experience, especially when the choir and acoustics are good.

I have never recommended that people regularly frequent chapels of the SSPX.  A great deal depends on the priests of these chapels.  If they get the “wrong guy” as it were, people can undermine their unity with the Roman Pontiff by taking in the wrong message.  The risk of this erosion of unity could in part depend on the manner of preaching and many other factors.

Mind you, I think this erosion take place on a huge scale at “legitimate” parishes which lean liberal!   For decades, countless Catholics have been starved of sound doctrine and their faith eroded by dreadful worship.  It is a sad fact that the SSPX, which is so Catholic and reverent, must be… well… not avoided, but not entirely embraced yet, while there is no problem with going to a loony parish in manifest communion with the local bishop where all manner of soul-annihilating nonsense goes on unchecked.  It’s just plain sad, and I hope that this will soon be resolved.

I still will not recommend frequent reception of Holy Communion at an SSPX chapel – yet – unless the conditions of your life are such that it would be very difficult, physically or morally, to get to another church or parish manifestly in union with the local diocese and Rome, even if it isn’t ideal.  The obstacles must be serious, but they cannot be easily spelled out because the circumstances of people’s lives differ so much.

So, yes, you fulfill your Sunday Mass obligation at an SSPX chapel and at an Eastern Catholic church.

This question comes up fairly often and it bears review.

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14 Responses to ASK FATHER: Do I fulfill my Sunday obligation at an Eastern or SSPX church?

  1. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Father your Novus Ordo picture is the worst. And reminds me of my gradeschool.

  2. Joe in Canada says:

    Maronite and Melkite Churches tend to give Communion by intinction. The priest dips the Host in the Chalice and then places it directly in the communicant’s mouth. Don’t say “amen”.

  3. Tom A. says:

    Both the NO and the TLM are capable of consecrating the host. But I have often wondered but for what purpose is the host consecrated at these two different Rites (no I dont but Benedict’s claim they are two forms of one Rite). [They are the one rite for juridical purposes. However, Summorum Pontificum did not resolve theological and historical questions.] We know in the TLM, the host is consecrated in order that Christ sacrifices. His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins. In the NO it seems He is made present soley for the consumption and nourishment of the congregation. [I am not so sure about that.] So much of the NO depends on intention. In the glaring photographic example you show, it is hard to denote any intention of sacrifice. [Ummm… that’s on the priest… right?] Hence, while the sacrament may have been confected, it is hard to believe this could be pleasing to God.

  4. Michael_Thoma says:

    Malankara Syriacs, Malabars, Armenians as well by intinction

  5. Fr. John says:

    Is it a particular Byzantine Catholic rule not to close your mouth on the spoon? For us (the Eastern Orthodox) the normative practice worldwide is to close one’s mouth on the spoon, although here in the United States, where many people are scared of germs, many people have adopted the practice (and even in instructed others) not to close the mouth.

    Personally, as a priest, I prefer that the faithful close their mouths on the spoon, as there’s less chance of an accident, but either way, it’s best when a given parish has a consistent practice so the priest knows what to expect.

    [Well… that’s what I had understood, but what do I know? I’m a Latin. Perhaps this post will bring clarity also about that.]

  6. AMTFisher says:

    Tom A.
    “We know in the TLM, the host is consecrated in order that Christ sacrifices. His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins. In the NO it seems He is made present soley for the consumption and nourishment of the congregation.”
    “Therefore, O Lord,
    as we now celebrate the memorial of our redemption,
    we remember Christ’s Death
    and his descent to the realm of the dead,
    we proclaim his Resurrection
    and his Ascension to your right hand,
    and, as we await his coming in glory,
    we offer you his Body and Blood,
    the Sacrifice acceptable to you
    which brings salvation to the whole world.
    “Look, O Lord, upon the Sacrifice
    which you yourself have provided for your Church,
    and grant in your loving kindness
    to all who partake of this one Bread and one Chalice
    that, gathered into one body by the Holy Spirit,
    they may truly become a living sacrifice in Christ
    to the praise of your glory.”
    -Fourth Eucharistic Prayer
    I don’t know about you, but that seems pretty clear to me–the Sacrifice of the Mass is the Sacrifice of the Cross, which by grace Christ deigns to join us to.

  7. DavidR says:

    @AMTFisher:
    Can’t recall the last time I heard EP4. We always get 2, even for the Easter vigil.

  8. Scott W. says:

    I sympathize with the reader having been to parishes up and down the East Coast and seen some shockingly bad NO liturgy. (The one TLM I worked with had problems of a non-liturgical nature, but I digress). Most of the time one is seeking liturgy that is not-so bad and this proved if you visit an online Catholic forum and there is always a thread from someone travelling or moving and wanting to know which parish to go to to avoid the whackadoodle.

    But to seriosly doubt the validity of the NO (or that x is not really a priest, bishop, or pope) is to be Protestant; to usurp an authority that is not yours and a short hop to the worldly Bruce Jenner doctrine of reality by personal fiat.

  9. robtbrown says:

    Tom A says,

    consumption and nourishment of the congregation.  So much of the NO depends on intention. In the glaring photographic example you show, it is hard to denote any intention of sacrifice.

    1. Minimal Intention for any Sacrament is always the same, and it is always general. It is: To intend to do what the Church does (intendere facere quod Ecclesia facit).

    2. Intention is the Cur (Why) of any human action. It is always interior.

    Hence, while the sacrament may have been confected, it is hard to believe this could be pleasing to God.

    As long as there is not sacrilege, it’s not all that relevant whether you believe (or not) that it could be pleasing to God.

  10. Georgemartyrfan says:

    Minimal intention – it is one thing to intend what the Church has always intended, though imperfectly, and quite another to intend some new thing and claim it is what the Church intends. — at some point isn’t even minimal intention questionable? If the priest even occasionally used the Roman Canon, that might give me comfort, but if every Sunday and holy day it is EP2 amidst abuses and irreverence, I wonder whether minimal intent is even present.

    I would assume minimal intent would be met with “I don’t understand all the Church teaches, but our Lord said “do this” and so I will diligently say the black and do the red.” Apparently that is a high bar.

    Is minimal intent that Jesus comes and gives us a hug and we are welcomed into the community?
    Is minimal intent that we receive our Lord’s body and blood and are welcomed into the community?

  11. spock says:

    At the Ukrainian Byzantine Church that I have been attending in the USA, they do not close their mouth on the spoon although I understand Father John’s point I think. Less chance of the sacred mysteries falling on the floor. Of course in the Latin NO west we have Communion in the hand. When I was attending a NO church many moons ago, I was an EMHC. Once in awhile it would happen and it would be dealt with (I think) as properly as can be. For these abuses, I will say “???????, ???????.” Lord have Mercy.

  12. spock says:

    OK, the Cyrillic didn’t make it through. Transliterated it’s Gospodi Pomiluy -> Lord have Mercy.

  13. jflare says:

    ” If it is possible to protestantize the NO it is also possible to traditionalize it. Way too much depends on the whims of the priest and those whom he designates to help.”

    Boy, ain’t THAT the truth! Not long before we received Summorum Pontificum, I had moved to a parish wherein the Novus Ordo was offered quite reverently, the only parish where I had ever seen a “serious” treatment of our faith. Not too many years before then, I had grudgingly returned to the Novus Ordo–in a different city–because the only traditional Mass was offered by a group who were not in communion with the bishop (or Rome).
    I think it very sad that the local Church in so many places does not place more emphasis on offering Mass properly.

  14. JesusFreak84 says:

    I don’t know about *law* as far as closing one’s mouth on the spoon, but I can say from experience that I HAVE caught colds that way =-S So for practicality… And, if you DO have a cold, yeah you’re more likely to spread it around communicating in the East than any form of the Roman rite; that’s yet another reason it’s not uncommon in my Ukrainian Catholic parish for people to “randomly” abstain from the Eucharist. There’s been plenty of times I haven’t received because I didn’t want to risk passing along a bug, even though I DON’T close my mouth on the spoon. (Is there a technical name for that? I’ve never been able to find anything authoritative…)