I am seeing a lot of confusion in the wake of the lifting of the excommunications of the bishops of the SSPX.
Let’s get some things clear.
VERY LITTLE HAS CHANGED JURIDICALLY except in the status of those four bishops.
I hope that this has helped to change the "atmosphere" surrounding these problems.
The "lifting" of the excommunications is a first step in the long process that still remains.
Q: Is the SSPX now legitimate?
Not in a juridical sense, no. The SSPX still does not have the approval of the Pope or of a diocesan bishop. It is still a separated group, though these days many prefer not to speak of "schism".
Q: Is it okay for the SSPX bishops to ordain now?
No. The bishops of the SSPX are validly consecrated bishops, but the fact remains that they were illicitly consecrated. That hasn’t changed. They are still not reconciled with the Bishop of Rome. They are still suspended a divinis. They still have no permission to exercise ministry in the Church. They may not licitly ordain. They have no authority to establish parishes, etc.
Q: Are the chapels of the SSPX okay now?
Not in a juridical, legal sense, no. Many good things can happen in one of those communities, but the SSPX chapels are not, because of the lifting of the excommunications, suddenly made legitimate. They are not reconciled by this move.
Q: Are the priests of the SSPX in good standing now?
Not yet they aren’t. The priests of the SSPX are still suspended a divinis. They say Mass validly, but without the permission of the Church, either from a faculty of the Holy See or the local bishop. They do not have the necessary faculties to hear confessions and give sacramental absolution except in danger of death.
Q: Is it okay to go to chapels of the SSPX for Mass?
Yes and no. It is still not "okay" to go to chapels of the SSPX if you are doing so out of contempt for the Holy See or Holy Father, etc. If are are deeply attached to the older form of Mass, and it is very hard on you to go without it, yes, you can attend these Masses our of devotion. You can fulfill your Sunday obligation still, because the 1983 Code of Canon Laws says you do.
But the fact remains that these are still chapels separated from unity with the local bishop.
In my opinion, it is not a good idea to go to these chapels exclusively except perhaps in very rare circumstances wherein there really is no acceptable alternative.
Q: Is it okay to receive Communion at an SSPX Mass?
Yes and no. Yes… if you would otherwise have to go without the Eucharist for a long time because you are morally or physically impeded from receiving in a licit way. No… if you are doing so because of contempt for the Pope, bishop, Holy See, etc.
I don’t think it is a good idea to frequent and receive Communion often in the chapels of the SSPX. I think that undermines a person’s sense of unity with the Holy Father and the local bishop.
Remember: The lifting of the excommunications was a necessary step on the way to something better.
In his letter to followers of the SSPX, Bp. Fellay reminded everyone that they prayed that the older form of Mass would be derestricted, and it was with Summorum Pontificum. He said there was a Rosary campaign to aid the lifting of the excommunications. That happened today. Bp. Fellay now says that we must pray that the necessary talks with the Holy See can begin soon about theological questions. Amen. Let us pray.
So… folks… don’t suddenly get it into your head that all the problems with the SSPX have suddenly been removed. Nothing has changed about their status. What changed was the status of the four bishops: they are no longer excommunicated, but they are still in a state of separation from clear and manifest unity with the Holy Father.
Your Q & A regarding receiving Communion reads:
“Q: Is it okay to receive Communion at an SSPX Mass?”
“A: Yes and no. Yes… if you would otherwise have to go without the Eucharist for a long time because you are morally or physically impeded from receiving in a licit way. No… if you are doing so because of contempt for the Pope, bishop, Holy See, etc. . . .”
Perhaps I did not understand your past comments regarding this issue, but it seems to me that you have rethought and softened your position on receiving Communion at an SSPX chapel. Whether you softened your position or not, I like the way you put it here. I trust that you would agree that most Catholics receiving Communion at a Mass of the SSPX do not receive Communion there “because of contempt for the Pope, bishop, Holy See, etc.”
Q: Is the SSPX now legitimate?
“Not in a juridical sense, no. The SSPX still does not have the approval of the Pope or of a diocesan bishop.”
According to the SSPX: “On November 1, 1970, the Society was officially recognized by Bishop Charriere, Bishop of Fribourg in Switzerland; its constitution was warmly approved by Cardinal Wright, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, the following February.”
1. Either the SSPX invented the above statement or said statement is correct. [They did not invent it. They left out the part where that approval was taken away.]
If the SSPX’s statement is correct, has the SSPX lost its legitimate canonical status? [Yes. It lost it.]
Dan, if I remember rightly the Holy See later revoked that approval. Thankfully after the Holy Father’s decree matters may be being solved but for the SSPX everything changed in 1988. You cannot be a legitimate canonical entity and ordain bishops against the Pope’s will. Popes fought for centuries to secure the right to control who is ordained a bishop. But hopefully today is another step towards reconciliation and these discussions will become a matter of history. We must pray for this because there is an obvious time issue approaching: as the four SSPX bishops get older they either have to lead the SSPX back into full communion or eventually they will have to ordain more bishops before they die out, and that is the road further towards schism.
Fr Z, thanks for this post clarifying the issues. Whilst today is a momentous step, I think that many people misunderstand it (from all sides of the debate; and in good faith) and think it means more than it does. It is good to have it put in context. I suppose a poor analogy is that of Paul VI “de-excommunicating” the Patriarch of Constantinople – it hasn’t brought the Orthodox back into full comunion, indeed it hasn’t affected the Orthodox man-in-the-street at all, but it has brightened the atmosphere for dialogue. Before I am condemned for suggesting that the SSPX is like the Greek Orthodox, I must repeat that it is a poor analogy, but still a valid one. Without prayer and good faith the SSPX could easily end up like the Orthodox.
Dan – the Fraternity was suppressed in May 1975. It has had no Canonical status since then. [Right.]
Here is my family’s situation. We have attended every NO parish within reasonable driving distance and have encountered the same problems. Heterodox homilies, folk music, rock music, hand gestures, risifixes, banners, communion in the hand, girl altar boys, women lectors, multiple unneeded Eucharistic ministers, heretical songs, tambourines, immodestly dressed EM’s, immodestly, slovenly dressed congregation, Obama stickers on the cars, priests joking about dropping the host, priests comparing Obama to Christ, and a general atmosphere of liberalism and protestantism.
I and my family have a deep devotion to Catholic Tradition and especially the Traditional Mass. Our Bishop has allowed two TLM’s on Sunday (one at 6am and one at 8am) 45 minutes downtown in our 700+ sq. mile archdiocese with over a million Catholics. This urban parish has little parish community life, and even if it did, with a small child we would rarely be able to make it 45 minutes away to participate in any parish functions in the middle of the city, especially at night.
20 minutes from our door is a vibrant SSPX Chapel with social activities, a very cordial Traditional Catholic atmosphere and straight down the line orthodox Catholic teaching. The TLM’s are by the book and the congregation extremely respectful and reverent in their dress and demeanor. They also have an academy for the children there.
In the situation we find ourselves in, it is our desire to attend a reverent Traditional Mass every Sunday without abuse, distraction, and having to consistently endure a non-Catholic atmosphere or teaching and be part of a Traditional, normal, Catholic social life that we can experience for more than one hour on a Sunday downtown. It is not our desire to separate ourselves from union with the Pope or the Bishop. It is a matter of having our spiritual lives nourished by a local parish rather than sabotaged, pure and simple. In my time going there I have never heard the priests talk against the Pope or Bishop one time.
In this situation, is it a sin to attend a Sunday Society Mass? Receive communion there? Participate in parish life there? [I don’t think the combox in this blog entry is the best place to offer judgments about your individual situation. I don’t want this to turn into a string of “What about this and this and this. Not gonna happen.]
Thank you for your thoughts.
Thank you for your assessment of this matter, Father. Some of these I expected. Others were new to me.
The Other David: Remember: I do not speak for the Holy See. These are my assessments based on my experience.
You will see lots of canonical fan-dancing in the combox about this, but you would do well to stick to what is sure, especially when it comes to the Sacrament of Penance.
It is not true that “these days many prefer not to speak of ‘schism'”. Almost everyone — even those sort of favorably inclined toward the SSPX — delights in speaking of “schism.” [I don’t think that is true among those who are really paying attention. Also, I said “many” not “all”. It’s a common mix up I hear.] Take a look at the news reports on this development: All that I have seen write of the “schismatic” SSPX. It would seem that Fr. Z is attached, like almost everyone else, to the comfort of regarding the SSPX as schismatic. [That it because perhaps you read what I wrote with either bad will or inattention.] Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos has stated explicitly that the Society is not in schism, but is in “imperfect communion.” But what does he know? It’s just his peculiar preference. [Well… you sure told us!] Calvin Hazelwood
The canonical status was revoked by the local Bishop, however he never had the authority to do so. Only the Pope does once it is established. The Society was suppressed without trial or appeal. Michael Davies documents this in his Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre.
I just read an Associated Press article about the SSPX and Bishop Williamson. I quote from that article, which features Monsignor Wister’s statements:
“Monsignor Robert Wister, professor of church history at Immaculate Conception School of Theology at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. “To deny the Holocaust is not a heresy even though it is a lie,” he said. “The excommunication can be lifted because he is not a heretic, but he remains a liar.”
1. Is accepting the “official” version of the Holocaust (example: 6,000,000 Jews murdered in concentration camps) something that Catholics must do to remain in good standing with the Faith?
2. If a Catholic does not believe in the “official” version of the Holocaust, is he or she a liar?
3. If he is she is a liar, does that constitute a mortal or venial sin?
4. Are people who reject the Catholic Church’s official history, that She is the One True Church to which all men are summoned, to be considered liars?
5. Is a person who rejects the Church’s teaching that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior a lair?
It seems bizarre to me that disbelieving the “offical” Holocaust story constitutes a sin (as he or she is considered a liar).
Are we required as Catholics (or anybody) to accept the “offical” the Armenian Holocaust…or any other “holocaust”?
What about “offical” versions of any event…are we, for example, sinful if we disbelieve the official Warren Commission Report?
Wow! This is chilling regarding that which is happening to Bishop Williamson…talk about thought police stuff.
Right. I understand that you are giving your assessment. However, there were issues you raised that I did not consider, and that was what I meant.
Forgive my imprecise language.
If you think of though police read what happened to to Germar Rudolf – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germar_Rudolf. He was extradited from the US and is now serving jail time in Germany precisely for denying that buildings presented as gas chambers at Auschwitz were indeed gas chambers. As you can see there are parts of modern history one should not touch or discuss or research or say anything other than the official version. But putting that aside – bp. Williamson was not wise to discuss this point at all with the journalist. He should have said “this is not a matter of faith or church, I’m not a historian and I have nothing to say to you about it”. Instead he got into discussing this – and there is no way he could get away unhurt once he started (other than saying he subscribes to the official version, of course).
(And, BTW, bp. Fellay and other SSPX bishops should really talk seriously to bp. Williamson about his public statements. Especially now, when he is speaking as a bishop (almost) in full communion with the Pope he should learn to stay away – at least publicly! – from certain topics, precisely for the benefit of the souls. I see little benefit for the souls from him discussing gas chambers (and he even admits he’s no expert on the subject!) – he should discuss catholic doctrine, especially as he is quite good at it.
Father, thank you for this overview – I’m blessed to live in a city where TLM is offered *daily* so I didn’t have a need to go to SSPX chapel, but when I travel I have to go to Novus Ordo Mass sometimes. It is not always celebrated carelessly and is not always bad, but sometimes it is. In any case it is good to know how the option of going to the SSPX chapel looks like canonically.
Feel free to e-mail me your opinion privately, if that’s acceptable, and I will keep it private
In response to the post that it is okay; i.e.” yes and no” to attend an SSPX Chapel, it seems that if it is yes than it is yes if it is no than it is no. In other words (with all due respect) how can a Catholic attend worship in a place that is not approved by the Vicar of Christ on earth? If someone is ignorant and so forth the ignorance is excused but not the act….but to say that (at least this seems to be the implication) one may go out of devotion is like saying one may be devoted to something that isnt approved by Christ’s personal representative on earth because piety outweighs in the subject its duty to obey authority. Father shouldn’t the answer be no and thats it? No to attend anyplace that isn’t under the authority of the Roman Pontiff because it is strictly forbidden to do so? How can one fulfill the Sunday obligation if it isn’t a Catholic place at least not yet? Is not the approval of the pope the important issue here? Not just latin, incense, candles, etc. make the public worship of the one true God pleasing but that it is (public worship) offered in union with His representative. The SSPX still is a very confusing group; but not as confusing as Church policy since the 1960’s. It seems Benedict XVI is trying to tie into the Lumen Gentium ecclesiology a group that does not agree with it and which probably doesn’t even understand its content. Now why must the laity be subject to this form of spiritual violence by which it can in good conscience consider a place due to piety even if it is against Christ? citing Our Lord “He who hears you hears Me.”
Since this isn’t the place to discuss private situations, please delete my previous question from the combox. Thanks.
By “previous’ I meant the long first one where I describe my situation. Thanks.
“It seems bizarre to me that disbelieving the “offical” Holocaust story constitutes a sin (as he or she is considered a liar).”
I’m sure you’ve heard this one: When you hear two different eyewitness accounts to the same traffic accident, you begin to wonder about all of history.
I am glad that the lifting of the excommunication does not mean immediate reunion. There are many difficulties and attitudes between traditional catholics and members of the SSPX. There is a great need for discussions to take place so that we can learn from one another. There is also the attitude of some local bishops to the SSPX which would make it perhaps impossible for a local SSPX to embrace their local diocese. We cannot just wait for the day to arrive. We must srart the process of reconciliation.
I largely agree with Fr. Zuhlsdorf’s assessments here, although readers should carefully note the distinction between his opinions and the Holy See’s positions. On Question 1, there clearly was no schism but rather irregularity and disobedience to legitimate authority. The consecrations of 1988 are deemed to have been a schismatic act but not one sufficient to result in schism, mainly because no parallel jurisdictions were erected and because the S.S.P.X bishops always affirmed recognition of the Pope’s authority.
On Question 4, Fr. Z., I feel, accurately represents the position of the Holy See. However, the Society does offer a counter-argument which is plausible (but not necessarily correct). They argue that they operate under supplied jurisdiction in a case of necessity, and danger of death is not the only such case (e.g. impeded priests behind the Iron Curtain was another). My own view on this is that they were right until 2000, when the Holy Father offered them a means to fulfil their divine mission and protect all their legitimate interests. They refused to accept this structure (the international and personal apostolic administration) until doctrinal issues had all been resolved. That is not accepable. Rightful disobedience must always result from necessity or, at least, a reasonable and honest belief in necessity; it can never be a response to inconvenience.
A clarification on Question 5: I think that Fr. Z. means to refer to the fulfilment of the Sunday obligation here and not just attending Mass. Yes, we are always allowed to go to Society Masses (or, since the 1960s, even Presbyterian services), but we cannot fulfil the obligation there unless the motivation is ordered. We musn’t go out of contempt for the Pope and so forth. While I agree with Father on this, I also wonder aloud how many traditionalists go to the T.L.M. out of contempt for the Pope and a desire for schism. Name one. I’d also add that Novus Ordo Masses can be illicit and even invalid and liberals don’t worry their little heads about this: they revel in disobedience to the texts and rubrics. Of course, I am not suggesting that two wrongs make a right; I just want a little context on this.
In the last question, I point out that Fr. Z. goes further than does the P.C.E.D. That’s fine. He’s entitled to his opinion. But it is not a restriction issued by Holy Church. Yes, we can receive Holy Communion at Society chapels and even offer a small donation during the Offertory. But the P.C.E.D. does not impose a restriction in regard to being unable to receive elsewhere for a long time. While the P.C.E.D strongly recommends regularised Masses, it does not forbid receiving Communion at Society chapels for *any* reason except a schismatic intent. One could walk past the F.S.S.P. church every Sunday and go to the S.S.P.X chapel with no schismatic intent, and one might commit not sin and fulfil the obligation (although the reason would have to be at least not sinful in itself, such as preferring one choir to another). While this is strongly discouraged, it is not strictly forbidden.
Really, what is needed now is a clear and public statement from Rome regarding the status of Society Masses and Sacraments. Too many people wiil be confused by the events of today. Many faithful are pious but not lawyerly. Most faithful do not read this blog and need guidance from the Church herself and her appointed spokesmen.
You are incorrect on one count. Supplied jurisdiction is nowhere based on “emergency”. The canons nowhere mention “emergency”. They are based on principles of common error, etc.
On all this Holocaust business, I don’t think that we should allow either Williamson or the masoretes to derail the significance of the Holy Father’s action today. This is not about them.
As to this contention that disbelieving the Holocaust is a “lie”. No, it needn’t be a lie. It could be a false conclusion of someone who has poor judgement. Some very brilliant people are ‘unsound’.
As for Williamson, I cannot imagine a reconciliation with the Holy See as long as he is influential in the S.S.P.X. But he’s 69 years old and this process of discussions (I refuse that stupid word ‘dialogue’) could take many years. All the more reason why we need a firm *public* statement from Rome on the status of Society Masses. I know what Msgr. Perl wrote to me and, yes, he resolved the matter of fulfilling the Sunday obligation for me (I’m not revealing here exactly what he wrote). But private letters to individual faithful do not solve crises for faithful who don’t know where to go to Mass.
Let’s pray for a public clarification. There was one, after all, following publication of S.P.
On Steve’s point. Yes! You are correct. I had forgotten that. It’s a long time since I’ve read about it. I apologise to the blog, although it matters little, I suppose, the point being that the Society does ground a claim in a legal norm. Now, you see, I do apologise when I get something wrong and I don’t try to censor or decry others for it. I am thinking of another issue regarding the use of personal pronouns but that’s all for now, thou.
[Feel free to start your own blog. What I object to is clogging entries with multiple comments. That must end.]
No problem, Karl. The “necessity” canon was used for the consecrations, but that issue is now moot. So “necessity” is pretty much irrelevant at this point.
Can you please tell me who in their right mind would attend a
SSPX chapel to “show contempt for the Holy See, Holy Father, etc
I will not answer this question as it is directed to Fr. Z.
However, I can tell you that those who blatantly disregard the texts and rubrics and spirit of the New Mass at least objectively “show contempt for the Holy Father”. Surprise, surprise, nobody in Rome calls them out!\
In reply to Vince, who wrote:
–In response to the post that it is okay; i.e.” yes and no” to attend an SSPX Chapel, it seems that if it is yes than it is yes if it is no than it is no. In other words (with all due respect) how can a Catholic attend worship in a place that is not approved by the Vicar of Christ on earth?–
Let me suggest the following response:
The Vicar of Christ on earth says, in the 1983 Code of Canon Law (his expressed will for the Latin Church), that Catholics may attend Mass wherever the Eucharist is celebrated in a Catholic rite (Can. 923); Catholics may thereby satisfy their Sunday obligation as well (Can. 1248 §1). Furthermore, Catholics may assist, out of moral or physical necessity, at even non-Catholic Eucharistic liturgies, so long as these are valid sacraments–e.g., Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, etc. (Can. 844 §2).
These canons appear to establish proof, a fortiori, that a faithful Catholic may fulfill his Sunday obligation by attending Mass in a chapel directed by the SSPX, whose bishops are not excommunicated, whose priests are validly (though illicitly) ordained, and whose worship is in the Roman Rite, just as rubrically sound (if not more so) as the local novus ordo parish (also Roman Rite, though “ordinary”).
There are letters floating around the media from Msgr. Perl, of the Pontifical Commission, Ecclesia Dei, ruling that individuals may make their Sunday obligation at an SSPX chapel given the above conditions. (Try: http://www.unavoce.org/articles/2003/perl-011803.htm)
Sometimes we must tolerate, even cooperate with, MATERIAL evil (like liturgical abuses, lack of licitness, etc.) to achieve a greater good (like the worship of God and Sacramental life) without FORMALLY cooperating with evil. Many of us do so every Sunday at our local Novus Ordo Parish, without formally adhering to the heretical and abusive nonsense we find there. Why is it so remarkable that some Catholics would attend Mass in a SSPX chapel, without formally adhering to that society’s irregular status?
(Canon Law is available at: http://www.intratext.com)
Thank you Fr. for posting this. I was confused as to what lifting the excommunications meant as well, as is the main stream media, which is already attacking the Pope for his action.
This clarification is very important, and helpful.
Here’s a note to all those priests who have insisted that SSPXer’s were no longer allowed to attend those masses, due to the excommunication. I tried humbly to attend mass at the local churches. I simply could not bear the protestantation of the mass, so I simply quit attending anywhere. Altar rails removed so communicants cannot kneel before their savior as he is received, priests saying mass AT the laity instead of offering it solemnly to God, with the assistance of the laity, changing the lord’s prayer to the protestant version, and socializing during mass, are just a few of the reasons.
Personally, I am tired of hearing about closings of Catholic churches all over the world. I wonder if that phenomenon is the result of hundreds of thousands of people just like me. What is so horrible about the tridentine mass that you would prevent priests from offering it? Who exactly does it harm? Do you think mass attendance might increase if your stubborness was reversed?
There is a traditionalist community on Long Island known as the Society of St. Pius V. Are they out of this loop altogether? A friend of mine belongs to this group and I believe they purportedly ordained a bishop very recently.
Lourdes, the sspv are sede vacantists. They do not recognize Benedict as pope.
Stay far away unless you have no other means of getting the traditional Mass and sacraments.
The Society of Pius V are a breakaway group from the SSPX.
Who in the early 1980’s were exspelled by Archbishop Lefebrve for refusing to accept JP2 as Pope.
This is a highly legalistic interpretation of what happened. It’s as if some anti-Traditionalist bishop were giving “norms for interpreting the lifting of the excommunications.”
We cannot look at today’s events while forgetting their larger context. In 2005, Bishop Fellay and Benedict XVI gave a communique indicating that they would move towards reconciliation, in steps “not too fast” and “not too slow.”
Today’s decree reveals that the process of reconciliation is on track.
Your answers to the questions “is it okay…” are as strict or stricter than the norms in the CIC for receiving sacraments in formally schismatic churches, e.g. Canon 844, §2: “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.”
After today, it gets much harder to maintain that SSPX is schismatic.
I think you have tried to be fairer to SSPX than most. We need not try to make today’s decree solve canonical problems that it was not intended to solve.
“Based on the faculties expressly granted to me by the Holy Father Benedict XVI, in virtue of the present Decree, I remit from Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson, and Alfonso de Galarreta the censure of latae sententiae excommunication declared by this Congregation on July 1, 1988, while I declare deprived of any juridical effect, from the present date, the Decree emanated at that time.”
1) The key word here is “remit” — the censure of excommunication is REMITTED in the juridical sense.
2) By this declaration, the excommunications cease to have “juridiccal effect” — from the “present date” (January 21, 2009).
the sspv are sede vacantists. They do not recognize Benedict as pope.
Stay far away unless you have no other means of getting the traditional Mass and sacraments.
This is very bad indeed, the teaching at a SSPV mass is not Catholic, they are in no way affiliated with the Catholic Church. While they may celebrate a valid mass, it is no way acceptable for a Catholic to attend it even if they have to attend a Novus Ordo.
you sound awful magisterial in your pronouncements. While I might not be a canon lawyer or anything, it’s clear to me that the PCED is specifically not offering a blanket authorization to habitually assist at SSPX masses because they prefer the choir, but out of serious reasons. Remember that excommunications of SSPX adherents in Lincoln was upheld, because Bp. Bruskewitz was able to show that no serious reasons exist. There is something wrong with frequenting SSPX.
It’s frightening to see traditionalist arguing that it’s just fine to frequent illicit masses and protestant services, when the canons which permit participation provide specific cautions, and are clearly not meant to allow habitual attendance at other than a Catholic Mass approved by the local ordinary or directly by the Holy See. It seems to me that traditionalists ought to be arguing against abusing such indulgences.
Thanks for clearing things up, Fr. Z.
Time to fast and pray for Bp. Fellay and the rest of the SSPX bishops and for out Holy Father that the Holy Spirit might guide all of them.
Dear Fr. Z.
I like this explanation very much. Can I as permission to post this in my blog?
my blog is http://thefilipinotraditionalromancatholic.blogspot.com/ thanks.
Bp. Bruskewitz’ excommunication was only upheld as regarded those who appealed it. My understanding is that the SSPX never appealed it because they were moving out of the diocese anyway.
I’m a new visitor to your site so I apologize if you’ve been asked this question before.
My wife and I visit the Fransciscan University annually and purchase books, ect. I’ve seen several Catholic books related to Mary the mother of Jesus as the ‘co-redemptrist (sp)’ could you explain, in terms of Catholic theology, what that means?
Father Z, thanks for this post as a comment on the “no juridical effects” phrase used in the lifting of the excommunications.
Great analysis… Spot on… Yet… I’m wondering…
The phrase “no juridical effects” (to be generously interpreted in favor of those involved) is so general and far reaching, without explanation… there is such a vacuum… that I’m thinking we have not been given the whole picture in the documents presented to date, and necessarily so, for the next important step would be a different step, namely, to accept the “something better” that you mention.
That “something better” may have been offered to the FSSPX within hours of the FSSPX acceptance of the lifting of the excommunications. This may have already been agreed upon by the FSSPX yesterday afternoon. This may involve giving the FSSPX juridical standing, meaning faculties to the bishops and priests as well, perhaps granting other things as well, such as a sanatio in radice for any marriage witnessed during those years, perhaps all of this under the rubric of a personal prelature. There are difficulties with that, but nothing that can’t be taken care of later, nothing that can’t fall within the boldness which our Holy Father is insisting upon.
It seems that this will come about on 2 February 2009. I emphasize seems for this, and the rest of what I’ve said here, since I was not on the spot to question the one who said this. The one who said this, however, is, how to say, in the know. I got a phone call from […]
In summary: second hand information coupled with speculation. O.K. Yet…
2 February is some days away. Much can happen both ways in the meantime and there are many things to do. Let’s continue to pray, whatever the situation actually happens to be at this very moment.
BTW, “Lourdes” above is not Father George bloggingLOURDES!
SSPV vs SSPX
I may be wrong, but I don’t think that the SSPV requires its members to adhere to sedevacantism and it embraces different forms of this idea amongst its clergy.
Hi Fr Z,
Thank you for your explanation. I am trying to understand this a bit more. I understand that by “lifting of the excommunications” they still can’t exercise their ministry in the Church because of the SSPX situation. But can these bishops now receive the Sacraments of the Church from ministers who are faithful to the Holy Father?
Honestly, the talk that one can go to a schismatic or irregular Mass over the Ordinary Form because one is attached to the 1962 Mass reminds me of the Byzantine Catholics (Ruthenians, Ukrainians, Melkites, and Romanians) who decide to go to the Orthodox Churches because their liturgies are not “Latinized.”
I think neither case is correct.
Ian De Cotta: Since they are no longer excommunicated, they can receive the sacraments under the usual conditions, that is they should be in the state of grace – except of course for the Sacrament of Penance. It seems to me they, like everyone else, would have to work through their own individual state of soul with God before receiving the Eucharist. God cannot be fooled. Their situation is more complicated from the fact that they are on the outs with the Bishop of Rome, the Pope.
Thank you, Fr Z.
thanks for your catechism question and answer post concerning this topic.
RE: Father Zuhlsdorf, Can you please tell me who in
their right mind would attend a SSPX chapel to
“show contempt for the Holy See, Holy Father, etc.”?
Comment by Barbara
First, thank you so much Fr Z for clearing this up for
us. I had been very confused about it – and more confused
when I went to the US site sspx.org and read Articles
of Interest. The sentiments expressed are not indicative
of an eagerness to return to Rome.
As for Barbara’s comments, I attended a funeral at an
SSPX chapel and was gobsmacked by the anti-Roman rhetoric
that came from the pulpit. Respect for the deceased’s
family prevented us from standing up and walking out. So,
yes, there is a problem.
We need to keep in mind that the SSPX, like every other human group, has a spectrum of opinions, virtue of life, and amount of prudence. One chapel may be full of outspoken wonderful, loving people, while another may be full of outspoken creeps. There’s always wheat and weeds growing together.
But the Church is a hospital for sinners, so we’re always in the market for creeps. (Darn that mercy thing, anyway.)
There are a lot of events in history which are iffy, but the Holocaust is not one. Claiming that it didn’t happen or that it’s overstated is like claiming that the Great Wall of China isn’t all that big. It’s like walking up to a Vietnam vet and claiming that there were never any VC. If one is not mentally impaired in some fashion, it invites an introduction of your teeth to someone else’s fists — particularly the fists of some person with numbers still tattooed on an arm. There are many Catholics with fathers who liberated camps, who would also be happy to introduce their feet to a Holocaust denier’s backside.
But no, it’s not heresy. It’s either pretty low or pretty stupid, but there’s plenty of either that’s not heresy.
For “official” and direct explanations from SSPX on their position and views of these present issues, read the Media Brochure at http://www.sspx.org. The link is on the homepage.
Father Z and Father George bloggingLourdes:
1 Million Plus Rosaries for 07 07 07 MP.
1 Million Plus Rosaries for 01 23 09 Lifting of Excommunications.
Both by Bishop Fellay’s appeal to FSSPX.
How many Rosaries can Catholic Blogs/Bloggers get in by
02 02 09 for the “something better”, and as a Deo Gratias, and thank you to the Blessed Mother and Bishop Fellay for this move towards unity in the Church.
OH my gosh…I forgot the Holy Father. God please forgive me.
I am unhappy over the tone of some of the remarks made in this forum. I go to Catholics for peace and clarity. When instead I observe common language and abrupt replies, I get very disappointed. All I can do is beg people to do better.
The provisions under which the traditionalist bishops were declared excommunicate had only been in force since 1951, pursuant to measures inserted into canon law to deal with the Chinese Patriotic Church set up after the Communist takeover.
The argument that the 1988 consecrations were carried out because of a state of necessity is often quoted—and is ultimately a matter of opinion; less well known is the fact that the 1951 decree deemed to form the legal basis for the excommunications does not appear to have intended to cover bishops not destined to be promoted to a vacant diocese. Arguably, therefore, the bishops were never actually excommunicate. [Wrong. The Roman Pontiff explicitly told them not to do it! Knowing the will of the Pope and knowing that the Pope knew what they were planning and why they disobeyed anyway. Why is this hard?]
If Msgr. Robert Wister has said those words published by Associated Press on calling Bp. Richard Williamson a Holocaust denier and a liar, he may have committed the sin of slander.
1. Bp. Richard Williamson has not denied the Holocaust, but its certain aspects such as the existence of gas chambers and the number of victims. A Holocaust denier in plain English means someone who denies that the Holocaust ever happened. It is not accurate to call Bp. Williamson and Holocaust denier.
2. Bp. Williamson said in the SVT interview that regarding the Holocaust, he studied the “historic evidence”, however questionable or unreliable, and arrived at his belief based on the “evidence”. If Bp. Williamson sincerely believes the Leuchter Report to be true, while the Report is actually untrue, he is a believer and a disseminator of a lie, but not a liar. Bp. Williamson can only be called a liar if he knows the Leuchter Report is false but still presents it to be true.
3. Whoever came up with the the “official” version of the Holocaust, unlike the Catholic Church, is not infallible.
The Holocaust and other genocides/massacres, by execution, torturing, starvation or abortion, etc. are all willful murders that cry out to heaven for vengeance. To elevate one group’s suffering above others’ is discrimination.
Please permit me to enlarge on my previous message. I have a couple of ideas which may help people, including myself of course, to “do better.” First, we can try to follow the example of Fr. Patrick Peyton. He was the humblest and mildest man I ever heard speak to a congregation. (You can listen to a brief interview with him at this web address — http://challenge.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=249721.) Second, I find that impulsiveness is a great obstacle to charity. (Thank God, though, that we’re not so bad as our impulses.) Write down your thoughts, and then think it over the course of an hour or a day, or even sleep over it. Don’t forget to practice the presence of Jesus. The result will be a fruitful and delectable reflection. Thank you and God bless you and your loved ones.
I’m not an expert like you of course. But surely, with respect, the point is that John-Paul II never excommunicated them ferendae sententiae. The Congregation for Bishops, acting, implicitly, with authority from the Pope, declared beforehand that they would be excommunicate latae sententiae if they went ahead. The canon law provision under which this was deemed to have “happened” was instituted by the 1951 decree. Not quite the same thing I would have thought.
The Pope himself never explicitly intervened. The the decrees and warnings were issued by Cardinal Gantin.
Thanks for sending me the second web page link in reference to the Lefebvreite bishops’ “un-excommunications,” or, if you will, the lifting of their excommunications. It brings up a great topic for discussion. Of course, what follows is just my humble opinion and should be regarded as such, but here it is.
The Q&A session MISCONCEPTIONS: What the “lifting” of the SSPX excom’s means for people that you referred me to goes a long way towards illustrating just what “misconceptions, ” I believe, are really out there. Fr. John Zuhlsdorf does really well in towing the post Vatican II party “line” that these bishops, and hence their priests and sacraments are “valid” but “illicit”. And on the surface of things it would seem as though he is correct. But what if…
What if the SSPX arguments are correct. That would make the excommunications not only illicit but invalid as well. I’ll try to explain their argument as best as I can, but I’m sure more learned scholars could explain it much better.
In the first place, how do you “lift” an excommunication anyways? There’s only two ways that I can think of. One would be for the heretic to repent of his ways and the other would be for the current pope to realize that a former pope was wrong to excommunicate the person in the first place. Since I’m pretty sure that the SSPX bishops have not recanted their “heretical” ideas it must be that the pope has come to realize that there has been a bit of an injustice that took place concerning these matters. So, what exactly was the injustice that took place?
The simplest form of the argument, as I understand it, is this:
1) The Church stated in no uncertain terms (precise “juridical” language) In Pope Pius V’s Quo Primum, an Apostolic Constitution, 1570, (http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius05/p5quopri.htm) that the Mass of Tradition as it was just re-promulgated should remain in force forever. It also stated clearly that no one, neither council nor pope had the right to change it nor could any priest, forever into the future, be prevented from offering said sacrifice. That’s the gist of it anyway.
2) The Church (Paul VI) did in fact (illicitly?) promulgate a “new” Mass. Canon 331 says that the pope… “By virtue of his office he possesses supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church, which he is always able to exercise freely”. So while he may have had the “juridical” power to promulgate a “new” Mass as “valid”, the new Mass would be illicit because he (Paul VI) had no moral right to overturn (abrogate) a prior pope’s teaching, especially on something so important and Traditionally grounded.
3) The Novus Ordo Mass is an horrendous and dangerous departure from the sure and beautiful thing we had in the Mass of Tradition. There are many books written about this.
4) Anyone who is a pastor of souls is morally obligated to provide their sheep with the best form of worship and sacrifice, which is that of the Traditional Mass. And as the Church herself teaches, Clerical disobedience is in fact permissible if your well formed conscience dictates that you must uphold the truth, even though you may be persecuted for it.
I hope that this was helpful.
Astorg [w/ Fr. Z’s comments]: “The provisions under which the traditionalist bishops were declared excommunicate had only been in force since 1951, pursuant to measures inserted into canon law to deal with the Chinese Patriotic Church set up after the Communist takeover.
The argument that the 1988 consecrations were carried out because of a state of necessity is often quoted—and is ultimately a matter of opinion; less well known is the fact that the 1951 decree deemed to form the legal basis for the excommunications does not appear to have intended to cover bishops not destined to be promoted to a vacant diocese. Arguably, therefore, the bishops were never actually excommunicate. [Wrong. The Roman Pontiff explicitly told them not to do it! Knowing the will of the Pope and knowing that the Pope knew what they were planning and why they disobeyed anyway. Why is this hard?]”
It is hard because those who the law were intended for never got a slap on the wrist. And the Supreme Pontiff could have abused his power even though he only has to answer to God, and only a future pope or a future ecumenical council can judge him on earth. Therefore, even though there have been canon law experts questioning the validity of the excommunication, the SSPX bishops were “officially excommunicated” until last week.
Did Rome ever tell the Chinese Communist Party controlled “Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association” “bishops” not to consecrate new bishops without the Holy See’s approval? Did any CCPA “bishop” ever get excommunicated? There appears a double standard here. I guess during Vatican II, criticizing the Communists was a no-no so after the Council Communism is no longer condemned, and Communists are to be “dialoged” with.
As Fr. Z stated in the beginning, very little has changed judicially. The difference between now and then (pre-excommunication but post-suppression) is the number of SSPX bishops. But we are not canon lawyers talking legalistic. Otherwise, we should be discussing the intent of a legislation, and whether its application was just or not. We can also go all the way back to when the SSPX were suspended and suppressed by Pope Paul VI, asking what did they commit to incur such punishment and whether it was just or unjust. We can also ask whether the suppression of the Traditional Mass, which can never be abrogated as Pope Benedict has declared in Summorum Pontificum, was/is an abuse of power, as many bishops and pastors still “allow themselves to be used as instruments of the devil”.
Fr. Z: “I don’t think it is a good idea to frequent and receive Communion often in the chapels of the SSPX. I think that undermines a person’s sense of unity with the Holy Father and the local bishop.”
What if my local bishop has openly expressed heretic views, is friendly to sodomites, remains silent on abortion and contraception, and holds the opinion that the Pope is but the Bishop of Rome, only one among equals in the college of bishops? Is it good for my faith to frequent and receive Communion often at parishes in this diocese, where liturgical abuses are norms and heretical preachings are plenty? Which of the two do you think undermines my sense of unity with the Holy Father, an SSPX chapel or a diocesan Novus Ordo parish? Which one should I choose, the instruments of God or the instruments of the devil? [I know. This is a very tough call. But I think you do not err when you choose to stay in obvious unity with the Church through unity with the local bishop. When you go outside of that unity…I don’t know. It is very frustrating, isn’t it.]
Let’s pray for the Holy Father. No good deed goes unpunished in this world. There is a horrific backlash that he is receiving at the moment. Did you see him at Vespers for Saint Paul? Exhausted. Sad. Let’s pray.
BObp: I’m sure you’ve heard this one: When you hear two different eyewitness accounts to the same traffic accident, you begin to wonder about all of history.
Yes. Though, it was presented to me in a much more skeptical way.
I once heard a philosophy lecturer say that any statement that implicitly denies what it explicitly states fits, in logic, the technical definition of “absurdity.” I have tried to find confirmation of this definition but am not competent enough to succeed. (can anyone here help me out?)
But if the definition’s true, consider: The very situation of having heard two different eyewitness accounts is itself a history of sorts. To deny the possibility of evaluating the truth of historic accounts based on accepting this particular historic account as true should then be called an absurdity. At best, if we hear 1000 logically inconsistent statements we can know that 999 of them are false on this basis alone, but not all 1000.
When I first heard the car-accident claim from a quasi-professor in a University of California history class, I didn’t quite know what to say. Thinking back, I wish I would have said, “So, if I go over there and punch you in the mouth, you won’t report me to the police or the University?”
Instead, I said, “If we can know nothing about history, then why are we all sitting in this classroom?” And I asked him, if we couldn’t trust all the historians of times past then on what grounds should we trust the current ones? He didn’t answer me.
But of course, the statement you related said that such a situation makes one begin to wonder about all of history. But, isn’t it true that wonder about history and the whole world has a home in the Catholic sense of the world to begin with. This wonder about history has certainly led people to the Catholic Faith at great personal cost — John Henry Newman and King James II come to mind.
A reply to Dan Kessler who wrote: “In the first place, how do you “lift” an excommunication anyways? There’s only two ways that I can think of. One would be for the heretic to repent of his ways and the other would be for the current pope to realize that a former pope was wrong to excommunicate the person in the first place.”
Why is heresy even an issue in the case of these excommunications? I thought these four bishops were excommunicated for participating in a grave act of disobedience by accepting consecration to the episcopacy without papal approval, in 1988. What does heresy have to do with it?
I think there is a third way for the excommunications to be lifted: the Pope may decide that the penalty no longer benefits the Church. So, he revokes the penalty as a gesture of goodwill toward the sinner.
Hey Father Z,
Upon further reflection, I’m thinking that the following is the case in regard to any suspensions…
Bishops and priests are ordained, then they may receive their mandate and faculties.
The fact of ordination does not incur suspension. Having excommunications lifted and it being declared that there are no juridical effects to the previous excommunications from the very date of those excommunications does not impose in itself or in a declared manner any suspension. The slate is wiped clean in that regard. The ordinations are valid and are as good as licit. [I think: Not if they are, in the case of bishops, without pontifical mandate, or in the case of priests without dimissorial letters.]
However, acting in a manner which requires a mandate and faculties, but not having these, does have negative consequences. In prudence, one cannot, for instance, present oneself for Confession to these bishops or priests until a mandate and faculties have been provided.
I’m hoping that a decree from Archbishops Stafford or Burke will provide an utterly easy way for any abuse of lack of faculties to be absolved, and for any marriages witnessed to be sanated.
It is ridiculous to provide such a decree lifting the exommunications if there is no immediate plan to provide a mandate and faculties. The Holy Father does not do ridiculous things. When I received a phone call about 2 February from someone who should know, I offered this hearsay and speculation. It seems fitting that this would be the case.
As with all things, this is highly volatile. All could change from day to day, hour to hour. Prayers continue to be needed. Also for our Holy Father. I think he’s receiving heavy criticism from very many of his would-be collaborators.
Perhaps WDTPRS could start up a list of spiritual gifts for the Holy Father…
Please correct me if I’m wrong, but my general impression is that the SSPX object doctrinally to Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Freedom, at least as much as they object to the subsequent liturgical changes. At least one priest (vaguely, two) have told me that they would not acknowledge papal authority until that was repudiated. When I said it ain’t gonna happen (though it may be “reinterpreted”) his response was, however painful, the SSPX would stay true to the truth until it was. At the very least, this means schism within the SSPX.
Father George, the version I have seen says something different than you seem to be indicating. Basically, the excommunications lose their juridical force from the date of the present decree (January 21, 2009). There is nothing retroactive in the language as far as I can tell.
“…I declare deprived of any juridical effect, from the present date…”
Tom, I note and accept your correct assertion as to why the bishops were excommuicated but was only using the term heretic for the sake of discussion. I think the argument still stands. I think that what we’re witnessing is BXVI’s admission that it was wrong for these bishops to be excommunicated for their “disobedience” when they were the ones who were correct in following the true dictates of their consciences for the welfare of their souls and for those under their care. For it was certain popes who put them in this position in the first place by forcing possibly unlawful dictates upon them.
schoolman… thanks. My bad. I’m too eager in what is an extremely tense situation here in France. I’m falling over myself with things that need to be done. Yet, the points remain the same. A vacuum is created that must be filled very soon.
Schoolman… also… Inasmuch as the excommunications were lifted with no juridical effects as of a few days ago, and inasmuch as those excommunications were much more serious than any previous suspension, it would seem reasonable to assume that any previous suspension is thereby revoked as well. That doesn’t mean that they have a mandate or faculties or that they are in a regularized situation. That’s what’s coming, we hope! If, in canon law, other things need to be specifically revoked, one by one, bit by bit, I don’t know. Maybe. But, of course, we cannot act on any doubt. One must follow, effectively, the advice of Fr Z above. Can all suspensions previous even to the episcopal ordinations be done in a decree? Dunno. Is all that effectively undone by the granting of a mandate and faculties? I would think so. Dunno. Will it be done that way? Dunno. But surely, surely something is in the works already.
You have said that if deeply (painfully) attached to the tridentine mass it’s permissible to attend mass at schismatic Tridentine chapels even though they are separate from Catholic unity, referring to the 1983 code of canon law. This seems too easily stated. I thought one is permitted if it is one’s only option for fulfilling one’s Sunday obligation. Otherwise one’s attachment to a rite would be more important than observing catholic unity, wouldn’t it? Could you explain and provide the reference from the 1983 code?
Can you please tell me who in their right mind would attend a SSPX chapel to “show contempt for the Holy See, Holy Father, etc.”?
I subscribed to a “Catholic Doctrine Mailing List” fifteen years ago. It was “moderated” by an SSPX devotee. After a few months of directing abuse towards Paul VI, the moderator, and a few contributors besides, began to call Pope John Paul II a heretic.
I doubt that all frequenters of the SSPX share this point of view, but for me that was one reason that I would have nothing more to do with that group.
If 5 people were excommunicated, (Archbishop Lefebre and the four priests he consecrated as bishops) why did only the later four have their excommunications lifted?
John D. Horton: “If 5 people were excommunicated, (Archbishop Lefebre and the four priests he consecrated as bishops) why did only the later four have their excommunications lifted?”
There were actually 6 people who were excommunicated. The late Bishop Antônio de Castro Mayer of Campos, Brazil was the co-consecrating bishop.
The question on deceased Abp. Lefebvre and Bp. de Castro Mayer has been given an answer here:
Peter Karl T. Perkins: “Excommunications cease at death…”
Good for Pope Benedict XVI. God bless him. It’s about time.
But to tell you the truth I’m wondering why this is still an issue when Peter Karl T. Perkins above pointed out that Catholics are allowed to attend “since the 1960s, even Presbyterian services”. To me that is deplorable. It’s as if the Presbyterian Reformation in Scotland has been totally over looked. I have read that the only Catholic Church in Scotland that survived the Presbyterian torch, was St. Mungo’s Church in Glasgow. The Minutes of the SSPCK show what the majority of the Highlanders were rebelling against in 1715 and again in 1745 – a calculated, well-financed attempt, backed by constant political pressure, to destroy their language and their religion. This happen before and after the Scottish Highland Clearances. The Minutes of the SSPCK were only placed in the National Register House in Edinburgh in 1933. Since then no Scottish Historical society has ventured to publish them; presumably they are still politically too embarrassing. The Presbyterian religion may have changed some what since then but has not returned to the Catholic faith.
Paulus above clearly points out that Bishop Williamson has not denied the Holocaust. No offense but I think it’s about time that American Catholics catch up with the rest of the world. What most do not realize is that the majority of the Jewish world do not support the zionist state. When I do a Google search for ‘Jews against zionism’ here in Canada it brings up over 350,000 web sites. If Google is blocking those web sites in the United States then you can start to catch up from this 6 page thread, http://hubpages.com/forum/topic/8543?page=3 and from this 25 page thread http://hubpages.com/forum/topic/8290
I have to take back my words on Bishop Williamson. I hadn’t realized what he had said. Christopher A. Ferrara has an excellent article on this here, http://remnantnewspaper.com/Archives/2009–131-ferrara-neocatholic_sour_grapes.htm#_ftn3
The rest of what I said above stands.
To get the link above to work properly replace the bar between 2009 and 131 (2009–131) with 2 hyphens (-).