The upcoming SSPX ordinations: observations

A couple observations about the March SSPX ordination madness presently in course.

As you may know, some time ago the superior of the SSPX in Germany, Fr. Franz Schmidberger accused the German bishops of rejecting papal authority.  I find that deliciously ironic, in a bittersweet way.  

The SSPX has scheduled for this Saturday 29 March ordinations at their German seminary at Zaitzkofen near Regensburg.

Regensburg Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller somewhat impotently but with snark denied permission for the ordinations.  As if the SSPX had asked it of him!  

SSPX Superior Bp. Fellay responded with disappointment: "That was unnecessary and inappropriate.  All these events definitely are a setback for us. It throws us back by 10 years. But ordinations will continue to happen."

The Holy See asked the SSPX not to have the ordinations t Zaitzkofen, and so the ordinations were transferred to Ecône, Switzerland for the same Saturday.

SSPX Bp. Fellay said, "We know our situation, from the view of canon law, is imperfect" but "it serves no purpose to invoke law in an attempt to suffocate the life of our priestly society."  Furthermore, "In effect the act of benevolence of the Holy See can’t be interpreted as a desire to suffocate the Fraternity of St. Pius X."  

Finally, Bp. Fellay wrote in a statement about the transfer of the ordinations, "We renew for the Holy Father the assurance of our prayers so from these [upcoming ‘necessary’] doctinal discussions the full light of whole Truth will emerge."

So, the SSPX were to have ordinations.

A German bishop used the opportunity to be snarkier than usual toward them, probably using the recent furor in the press to make a bigger noise than he could have otherwise.

The Holy See asked the SSPX not to have the ordinations in Germany.

The SSPX rather graciously moved the ordinations to Econe, though the ordinations will still be illicit.

In the decision to move the ordinations, the SSPX Superior made explicit reference to the necessary doctrinal talks which must take place with the Holy See.

Thus, the SSPX made a concrete gesture of goodwill toward the Holy See, while kicking a little sand in the eye of the hostile Regensburg bishop.

The SSPX’s best approach now is to be incredibly gracious and cordial to all local bishops in every place they have a foothold.

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  1. Chris says:

    “The SSPX’s best approach now is to be incredibly gracious and cordial to all local bishops in every place they have a foothold.”

    I’m not saying this is bad advice — I’m sure it’s the best. But I’m just curious why there isn’t a second line of advice to these unCatholic bishops in terms of how they treat the SSPX?

    I’m not going to make the obvious and overplayed St. Athanasius comparison but, at some point, the SSPX can only give so much before they break.

  2. I may be wrong, but it seems to me receiving the sub-diaconate is rather less an issue than receiving the diaconate or the priesthood.

  3. Neal says:

    Does anybody know if Rome had a word with the German bishop? I’m not sure it makes sense that Rome should make requests of those in partial communion rather than those in full communion.

  4. teresa says:

    Fr. Z. wrote: “Thus, the SSPX made a concrete gesture of goodwill toward the Holy See”
    I am very glad that you think so.

    Bf. Müller is a conservative bishop. He is also very loyal to the Pope. He enabled also the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum to be properly carried out, and in his diocese the TLM is now held in a wonderful ancient church.

    Sometimes I do wonder why some conservatives are not so friendly to the SSPX.

  5. Lets see a probably liberal Bishop does not like the ordinations of Traditionalist in his diocese, gets his snarky nose out of joint. Me thinks he is jealous, how many ordinations does “he” have this year in his seminary. Sorry Fr Z, but to me the undertones of this matter are really dark, I pray for the SSPX and the Pope and all involved in negotiations,

  6. wsxyz says:

    Bf. Müller is a conservative bishop. He is also very loyal to the Pope. He enabled also the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum to be properly carried out, and in his diocese the TLM is now held in a wonderful ancient church.

    It sounds like he has properly implemented Ecclesia Dei Adflicta instead of Summorum Pontificum.

  7. Ruth Lapeyre says:


    “Sometimes I do wonder why some conservatives are not so friendly to the SSPX.”

    I suspect because they feel that they have been getting the brunt of the liberal attack and some may feel that the SSPX abandoned the Church when she needed them most. I am not one of them and have no particular ax to grind. I pray they come back into full communion and am very happy to read Fr. Z’s comments.

  8. puella says:

    “Sometimes I do wonder why some conservatives are not so friendly to the SSPX.”

    This is just guesswork on my part, but maybe it’s a kind of hostility to those who might share your views, but took such a radical (and arguably the “easier”) way round the issue? I mean, the SSPX went their own way and set-up their own little “world” in order to preserve Catholic life, teaching and traditions. Maybe +Müller resents that because although he agrees with them on many things…I elected to remain in full communion with the Pope and weather the storm that way.

    Now there’s lots of fuss (both positive and negative) about the SSPX, and many people saying how wonderful it would be if they came back into full communion. But maybe those who had/have exactly the same struggles but did not elect to go and do their own thing resent the laud and attention the former are getting – especially when they may have had to doggedly fight on during the really hard times.

    As I say, I don’t know anyone in this scenario (besides a few FSSP priests, all much too young to have personal memories of it ;)). I’m just trying to put myself in someone’s shoes and see things how he might. Which of course is no guarantee I’m right, even!

  9. RichR says:

    With regards to the status of the SSPX, everything is very delicate right now and in a temporary “Limbo” until these proposed talks get underway. If the Holy See has commandeered this situation, are these ordinations something the local Ordinary is expected to handle? With “peace talks” on the way, I’d say “Give Peace a Chance.”

  10. Aaron says:

    Of course, another more credible showing of good faith would be to stop conducting illicit ordinations–instead of just changing locations.

  11. Jerry says:


    Of course, “illicit ordinations” has been the only way the SSPX has survived and thrived these many years. And of course the SSPX has maintained that “necessity” has “supplied jurisdiction”.


  12. shadrach says:

    The SSPX and its supporters need to moderate their sense of entitlement.

  13. Chris says:

    “The SSPX and its supporters need to moderate their sense of entitlement.”

    We’re all entitled to the traditional Mass and Faith, including the SSPX. They have been, wrongly, denied that rite for decades.

    One should not moderate his fervor for the Church, Mass and Faith.

  14. Mark Polo says:

    From what I know of him, Bishop Müller is an excellent Bishop, is promoting prayer for vocations, etc. My suspicion is that he more wanted to avoid that SSPX is producing more suspended priests, that is trying to encourage them to start these dialogues with Rome that they keep talking about, rather than going on about day-to-day business. As has been pointed out, these are subdiaconate ordinations, so the suspension issue doesn’t really apply, I suppose, but it also has a questionable “absolute necessity” (“we’ve got to do this today or the whole traditional liturgy of the Church is going under”) value. I would submit that asking these men to make the sacrifice of waiting a couple of months would not have hurt the society a bit at the moment. If it really is an unbearable wait, they could ask for a permission to reduce the interstitial time for these men, once they are in more full communion with the Holy See. A wait here doesn’t even have to delay their priesthood.

    I didn’t see the original “snarky” comment, so can’t comment on that.

  15. eric frankovitch says:


    A contrary view is that the SSPX has borne the brunt of the fight to preserve and promote the immemorial Traditional Latin Mass and Sacraments. The have been labeled schizmatic, many have been shuned by family and friends for their religious convictions (not to mention priests and bishops) and have been cast out of their church buildings and lay attendees of SSPX Masses have been prohibited from serving as godparents and have been told that they are not Catholic.

    I’ve never had the guts to exclusively attend a SSPX Chapel, but I thank God that have been in the front lines. They have enabled me to attend an Indult Mass.


  16. Danby says:

    Do you really think that without the “facts on the ground” of tens of thousands attending SSPX chapels worldwide, combined with Fellay’s insistence that all priests must know they are free to say the traditional Mass before they would begin talks, we would have had Summorum Pontificum? That has been one of Fellay’s non-negotiables since his election, and his insistence on this point has borne wonderful fruit.

    I have never attended Mass at an SSPX chapel, but I am and will remain grateful for their steadfastness, boldness, even their obstinancy.

    If they can complete their work by providing an alternative within the Church to the reigning ideology some call the Hemeneutic of Rupture, then even their rebellion will have served God and His Church. And all traditionally-minded Catholics should thank them.

    In the meantime, they have been betrayed often enough to be careful and work for the long term. Even if we accept (as I am sure that Fellay at least does) that the Pope is working in good faith and determined to re-integrate the Society, who knows how long our Pope will live, or who will succeed him? They have been asked to make a positive step to show their good faith, and I hope this action is counted as one. To expect that they should surrender at this point is both naive and bizzarre.

  17. MichaelUK says:

    Did not this whole problem arise from Msgr. Lefebvre’s original and authorised seminary attracting seminarians, whilst those of other nearby bishops were in decline – jealousy and psychological guilt, one might surmise.

  18. Thorfinn says:

    What “illicit ordinations”? Paul VI suppressed the subdiaconate and the minor orders, did he not? Well then, if that indeed is true, why would a Catholic bishop get upset over another bishop he obviously believes to be schismatic, conferring something he doesn’t believe to exist? The good bishop’s indignation just doesn’t seem to be justified. It must be something else, I think.

  19. Ruth Lapeyre says:


    “A contrary view is that the SSPX has borne the brunt of the fight to preserve and promote the immemorial Traditional Latin Mass and Sacraments.”

    I became Catholic in in 1978 and so really knew very little about all the old Mass new Mass controversy at the time. I remember being confused that the Mass I was attending had priests wearing vestments that were just goofy looking in comparison to the gorgeous vestments I had seen in the old movies, that the music I learned of in music school, (you know the great heritage of western music made possible by the Roman Catholic church) was no where to be found…well a little here and there, and that some of the churches themselves looked more like hotel lobbies than churches of any kind. For years I sang as a soloist in Protestant churches, went to Mass on Saturday with my children and looked in vain for a Catholic church that would do music as good as I found in the Protestant Church (yes even Masses are performed in Protestant churches as concerts). The Protestants were preserving our musical heritage! Not all mind but many more of them than Catholic Churches. It took until 1995 in an inner city church in Detroit at a homeschooling conference for me to have my eyes opened. A Novus Ordo Mass in Latin! Complete with good music, chant even! What I found upon investigation was that there were some priests who had remained faithful to Rome but who were implementing the documents of Vatican II to the best of their abilities. Many of them have suffered and suffered greatly for it. But then suffering is good for the soul.

    I don’t doubt for a second that many in SSPX have suffered and they are not alone and I hope they realize this.

  20. Prof. Basto says:

    If the Holy See said “Don’t go forward with those ordinations to the sub-diaconate in the Diocese of this Bishop who, exercising his authority, prohibited them”, then, a contrario sensu , it seems that the Holy See is saying that It is ok with the ordinations taking place in a territory in which the Bishop won’t prohibit them expressly.

    Otherwise the Holy See wouldn’t have said: “Don’t do it in Germany”; It would have said: “Don’t do it, not in Germany or anywhere, you are prohibited tout court, period”.

    So this bishop in an oblique way ended up adding a quasi-legality or a partial legitimacy to the ordinations in question, although that was not his intention.

  21. I just want to thank all the bloggers for their interest in SSPX. In addition, prayers and good thoughts to Fr. Z. for allowing the truth to come to the front, pleasant or not. Blessings

  22. schoolman says:

    On the surface of it, and as it has been presented by +Fellay, it does appear like some kind of tacit “approval” on the part of the Holy See. It will be interesting to see if the Holy See makes any statement on the matter.

  23. ssoldie says:

    Please ,Please, pray for the Holy Father ,the Bishops of the SSPX, and the laity of the SSPX, they all love the bride of Christ very much. So did Archbishop Marcel Lefevbre and his very loving family, let no one miostake that.

  24. Herbert says:

    I am just a simple layman. But my opinion is the Bishop of Regensburg should have been more pastoral in approach rather than confrontational. Confrontation does not solve any problem it only worsens it.

  25. Son of Trypho says:

    There may also be the consideration that the German bishops are concerned about political implications for being seen to be permitting SSPX activity in their dioceses.

    This may be because, due to Williamson, the SSPX in Germany are most likely being investigated as an extremist outfit by the Govt. (regularly conducted by the German govt. on any group that fits certain criteria including the Scientologists, neo-Nazis/far-right, extreme left for instance) and the German bishops (and Benedict) are probably deeply concerned about getting the German church embroiled in such an investigation by association.

    Purely speculation, but there were certainly open calls from German politicians for investigation and I’m fairly confident that this would be underway.

  26. Clinton says:

    Danby, I wholeheartedly agree with your post. I too haven’t attended a SSPX church, but I certainly wish them
    Godspeed in these negotiations and I look forward to their regularization.

    Your point about +Fellay’s insistence on the “freeing” of the Gregorian Mass perhaps being one of the reasons
    Summorum Pontificum was issued was interesting. It’d never occurred to me before, but it seems plausible.

    Has there been any talk of simply merging the SSPX with the FSSP? I understand that the FSSP was founded by
    priests from the SSPX who were concerned about the growing estrangement from Rome. They are, it seems,
    largely where the SSPX would like to be. Perhaps it is the issues surrounding the understanding of Vatican II
    for the entire Church that makes such a fusion, for now, so difficult. If that is so, then perhaps a study of the
    arrangements the Vatican made with the founders of the FSSP will be useful.

    One other comment — I am astonished that a bishop would be so tactless as to antagonize the SSPX when
    the Vatican is in the midst of these delicate negotiations with them, especially since the Holy Father has
    expressed a strong personal commitment to a resolution. Team player? Not so much.

  27. Aaron says:

    Is this an SSPX website or a Roman Catholic website? (And, yes, there is a difference.) It’s getting hard to tell. [Learn to make distinctions?]

  28. Son of Trypho says:


    Your comment is a little unusual considering that Benedict himself explicitly brought to attention the numbers of the SSPX in a recent statement and advised that we cannot simply ignore them.

    Considering the fact that they have made big news (for the wrong reasons) recently, and they are part of the Catholic church, I’m not sure what criteria you would be using to suggest that coverage of their activities would not be in alignment with interests for Catholics?

  29. Fr. Angel says:


    I used to be too harsh in castigting the Society as schismatic and a lost cause of fossilized thinking. Now I tend to be overly sympathetic and lenient to where I don’t always look objectively at their disobedience, giving them a pass for everything.

    I think many of us who read this blog are trying to find the via media in dealing with the SSPX.

  30. One of the things that perplexes me of the illicit ordinations and those here who support them is it is dissent in doing this. Picture a liberal Catholic using the form of the argument to justify something like a vote for a pro-abortion candidate or the use of contraception. Would we accept an argument of “necessity” from them.

    The difference between a conservative bishop like Müller and the SSPX is that the conservative bishop remained within the Church in full communion even when times got tough.

    Now, either there are legitimate rules, and the Holy See is the one to enforce when “necessity” applies, or else we can throw out the order within the Church altogether.

    What is sad is that liberals appeal to the “(Spirit of) Vatican II.” Radical Traditionalists appeal to “(The Spirit of) Tradition and both end up making it mean “Whatever I think is right,” while orthodoxy is viewed as right wing by the liberals and modernist by the radical traditionalists

  31. Konrad says:

    Regarding Bishop Müller or Regensburg: Much of the basics to these notices might be based in his unique personality: he is to some extent an enigmatic person. Hardl anyone has a clue what he’s really about. He’s a dogmatist and as an dogmatist he only knows absolute black or absolute white. Nothing between. Then as a bishop in charge he is right by office, meaning he is infallible in everything he does and says – at least he acts like that. I know him, I met with him several times, as I’m from Regensburg, that’s somewhat inevitable.
    Another facette is, that he is not to be judged as conservative, as a liberal, as traditional or as modernist. He’s nothing of that and at the same time a bit of all that. Before the Motu Proprio the diocese of Regensburg was one of the few that he had allowed not a single traditional latin mass – with the exception of Zaitzkofen where he had no influence – on the other hand he disciplined some of the ultraleftist dissenters, but in such a very heavy handed way that did very much “collateral damage”, alienating even the faithful that were loyal to faith, pope and bishop. He’s not – in any way – diplomatic.
    His sermons were a desaster in the beginnig, no one understood them, they were more lectures in theology at university.

    We all here hope that he might get a good post in Rome (sucessor to Card. Walter Casper for ecumenic relations) where he really can employ his vast knowlegde in theology and dogmatics, but as a bishop having to lead his flock, he’s near to desaster.

  32. Paul Haley says:

    The SSPX’s best approach now is to be incredibly gracious and cordial to all local bishops in every place they have a foothold.

    And the bishops’ best approach now is to be incredibly gracious and cordial to all members of the SSPX and their adherents wherever they exist in their dioceses. Who today is considered outside the realm of proper jurisdiction may tomorrow be granted jurisdiction by papal mandate. Graciousness and sensitivity to each other would do wonders, I think, to advance the initiatives of the Holy Father towards unity.

  33. Michael J says:

    David (the other one)

    Given the nature of these ordinations (they are to the subdiaconate and the minor orders)
    and given that the Holy Father, based on what we know at this point did *not* ask that they be cancelled, do you really think that “illicit” is the appropriate term to use?

    The SSPX may, in fact, dissent in many things, but this is not one of them

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